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Chaplains provide spiritual comfort amid pandemic

While PeaceHealth is a Catholic institution, the spiritual assistance is extended to those of all beliefs.

Posted: Mar 31, 2020 7:55 PM
Updated: Mar 31, 2020 8:26 PM

SPRINGFIELD, Ore. -- As first responders work around the clock tending to patients who are ill, there is one group in particular that helps those in need of spiritual comfort: hospital chaplains.

At RiverBend Hospital, this type of attention is a priority.

“During this time, of course, there is a much higher underlying stream of anxiety,” Lead Chaplain Dow Cobb said. “This affects all of us in our personal lives and our professional lives.”

Cobb works within the ICU and Emergency Department. He said that despite the pandemic, his day-to-day responsibility and mission remains the same.

“We don’t have an agenda," Cobb said. “We go in there and listen well and open our hearts to the situation. It often involves facilitating communication between family members and medical staff because families often don't hear what the staff is really saying.”

There are five chaplains at RiverBend. One chaplain is assigned to the University District, and six work within hospice. They not only serve those within the hospital but also families who cannot be near their loved ones right now.

While PeaceHealth is a Catholic institution, the spiritual assistance is extended to those of all beliefs. A chapel can be found on both campuses for private reflection.

Micki Varner is the manager of spiritual care for PeaceHealth.

“I think my hope for all of us during this time is that we discover and we remember that this is the moment we’ve been preparing for -- whether we knew what that was going to look like,” Varner said. “It calls on all of our deepest spiritual resources, our emotional skills and our ability to remain connected and be community with one another.”

For Varner, she said serving patients and caregivers is all within PeaceHealth’s values.

“This is truly the moment we’ve all been called to go through together as a community at this moment and time and we have what we need within us,” Varner said.

When it comes to spiritual care, many feel that their role is much deeper than a job title.

“For me it brings such meaning and purpose,” Cobb said. “That’s why I’m in this. We go back in time, and it takes a bit more courage than it always has. The driving force for us is meaning and purpose that it not only brings to those that we minister to -- but certainly to us.”

At the end of the day, Cobb said he wants everyone he encounters to understand a few things.

“In this mist of the direst of circumstances, there is still room for hope and for love and for peace,” Cobb said.

Even through the chaos, Cobb and Varner say they will continue to serve.

“It’s our job to be the calm and quiet and steady presence there which gives them something to hang onto in the midst of the chaos,” Cobb said.

Anyone can request spiritual care for a patient or caregiver. To find out how you can contact a chaplain, click here

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