Pastoral Care at Lovelace

The moment a patient steps into a Lovelace Health System hospital or clinic, our staff is committed to giving that individual the best possible care. Lovelace is also committed to caring for the spiritual and emotional needs of patients, families and staff, also known as “pastoral care.”
Lovelace is the only healthcare system in Albuquerque that relies primarily on volunteers to provide spiritual care and we are proud to offer patients comfort and guidance, regardless of spiritual belief.
Reverend Christopher Eyrich, Director of Chaplaincy and Volunteer Services for Lovelace Medical Center, and Heart Hospital of New Mexico at Lovelace Medical Center and Lovelace UNM Rehabilitation Hospital, discusses pastoral care at Lovelace. Eyrich has been with Lovelace for four years.
Can you describe how Lovelace incorporates pastoral care in our facilities?
We are fortunate to have a dedicated group of volunteers who give of their time and talents to visit with our patients. All new spiritual care volunteers undergo at least 15 hours of class and shadowing time before visiting our patients. This training primarily focuses on communication, identifying spiritual distress and knowing when to refer patients for further assessment. 
What responsibilities do spiritual care volunteers have?
Spiritual care volunteers round on all patients, utilizing the training provided to allow a patient to express his or her needs and then be responsive to what has been expressed. Those responses may include a referral, prayer or continued time spent in caring conversation with the patient. Some volunteers are Eucharistic Ministers who provide communion to our Catholic patients. We are always looking for volunteers who have a desire to help others and to be committed in their time and service.
The theme for Pastoral Care Week in 2018 is "Hospitality - Cultivating Time.” What does this statement mean to you?
One of the main opportunities that spiritual care providers offer is time. As I explain in the training of volunteers, spiritual care providers must be good listeners, without an agenda. It is the job of the chaplain to actively listen to what a person is sharing and to stay with that person until his or her needs have been expressed, explored and or satisfied. The hospitality is the willingness to be truly and singularly present for someone. The cultivating of time is the willingness to be available and focused for the time that the patient gives to you, and then to help him or her in what it share or is identified as the need or spiritual distress. 
What is one thing you would like people to know about pastoral care?
Spiritual care is more than just prayer- it is care at the soul level, the very essence of who we truly are. Research has shown the majority of all patients want to have spiritual care offered to them, but it is almost never offered. One of the reasons for this is that non-spiritual care providers, such as doctors, nurses, social workers, case managers are often uncomfortable asking the patient if he or she would like to see a spiritual care provider. It is really important to meet this patient need. So I would like people to know, to please ask the question and make the referral. If you are a patient or family member please request spiritual care if you are not directly asked. 
What is your favorite part about your job? 
There are so many parts to my job and each one of them have joys that are attached. One of the greatest blessings that I receive is that I am often invited into a very personal aspect of a patient, family or staff member’s life. The sharing of spiritual distress is at the soul level and to be able to be present at that time is humbling. It is also an amazing gift to see God at work. Chaplains operate as non-denominational, so we are available to people of all faiths or for those who have no faith. This is also a wonderful aspect of my position, the opportunity to care for and provide care to all people. 
Lovelace offers many opportunities to give back our patients, whether that be in spiritual care or other departments. Click here to learn about volunteer opportunities at Lovelace.