1:00 p.m.: My 12-hour shift begins. I meet with a potential kidney donor. A few of our chaplains, including me, are trained as Living Donor Advocates. I discuss the risks of donation and ask if they feel pressure from anyone to donate, then give them a chance to raise any questions or concerns they might have.
2:00 p.m.: The Service of Remembrance Committee meets. Each year, we plan a memorial service for all Children’s Hospital patients who have died and send invitations to their families. During the service, candles are lit as we read the name of each child, the slideshow gives us a chance to see their faces, musicians play soothing music, and one of our chaplains offers words of comfort.
3:30 p.m.: I check the Advance Directive list. Every patient is asked during registration whether they would like information on Advance Directives. If they say yes, we make every effort to visit them within 48 hours. Today there are nine names on the list.
3:40 p.m.: This patient does not remember asking for Advance Directive information and asks what one is. I explain that the Healthcare Power of Attorney form designates a person of the patient’s choosing to make medical decisions for them in the event that they are not conscious or otherwise unable to make decisions. It asks specifically about the patient’s wishes in regards to organ donation, life support, and tube feeding. The patient says she would like one.
4:15 p.m.: I get a page from the chaplain who is on-call. He’s busy with a death in NICU and asks me to respond to a trauma in the ER. A man riding his bike was hit by a car. He is conscious, so I ask if he wants me to call anyone for him. He says he called his wife from the scene, and she is on her way. When she arrives, I meet her in the waiting area and give her the information that I received from doctors about the patient’s condition. I try to keep her calm until she can see him.
5:00 p.m.: I walk across campus to the ART building, where I will be on call for the remainder of my shift. The chaplain who has been there all day gives me report and leaves. I grab a sandwich in the cafeteria.
5:35 p.m.: A nurse in the operating room pages me. A patient has had unexpected complications in surgery. The doctor wants me to go with him to inform her daughter and son. They are distraught. I spend most of the next three hours with them as the surgeons try to stabilize their mother, she gets moved to ICU, and more family members arrive. They ask me to lead them in prayer at her bedside.
8:30 p.m.: I do one more Advance Directive visit before patients get their nightly medications, which often make them very drowsy.
9:45 p.m.: A family in ICU has to make the decision whether or not to withdraw their loved one from life support. They feel it’s time to do so, based on doctors’ reports, but ask, “Will God forgive us? Are we giving up on her?” We talk through the ethical and theological issues, then pray together.
11:10 p.m.: The Institute of Psychiatry calls. They need someone to notarize commitment papers for a patient who is a danger to himself. I, like most of our chaplains, am a notary public.
11:45 p.m.: Time to document all these visits in the electronic chart! That will take me almost to the end of my shift.
1:25 a.m.: My dog is happy I’m home. A short walk with him, and then I’m ready to get some sleep.