Messages of Hope and Healing

Posted on June 5, 2024 by Marketing and Communications
Marketing and Communications

Chaplain Kim Crawford Meeks visits healthcare workers and support staff face-to-face in their units to perform a blessing of the hands. data-lightbox='featured'
Chaplain Kim Crawford Meeks visits healthcare workers and support staff face-to-face in their units to perform a blessing of the hands. Photograph by Seth Laubinger.

MANY PATIENTS AND VISITORS at USA Health hospitals hear Chaplain Kim Crawford Meeks’ messages of hope and healing before they ever meet her. Most days, she makes her way to the communications office at Children’s & Women’s Hospital, greets the staff and then heads to a small room off the lobby.

There, she dials into the intercom system, introduces herself and invites those who can hear her to pause for a moment — a meaningful moment.

“It’s OK to not be OK,” she says on a recent morning, her warm voice echoing softly down hallways. “Healing is a journey, not a destination. Grant yourself permission to not have it all together. Remember, healing takes time, and progress isn’t always linear. May we move forward in hope together.”

For USA Health employees who aren’t able to hear the messages, Crawford Meeks also sends her meaningful moments via email. At least once a month, she and her colleagues pen longer messages through the health system’s newsletter, and they fan out every day across hospitals and medical practices offering scheduled and unscheduled opportunities to comfort those who need it.

“As chaplains, we meet people where they are,” she says. “We step into the journey with those in our care, regardless of where on the journey they may be.”

The Spiritual Health and Counseling Department was formally established at USA Health in early 2022, when Crawford Meeks was hired, to  offer spiritual and emotional support to patients, their caregivers and employees. Today, the  department includes four board-certified chaplains and a counselor.

The group is part of a growing number of chaplains working in hospitals and academic health systems in the United States. A survey by the American Hospital Association in 2015 found that some 70% of 4,862 hospitals surveyed offered pastoral care services, which was up from 53% in 2002.

Chaplains have been caring for the spiritual needs of patients (and healthcare workers) since at least the 1920s. Research and anecdotal evidence shows that providing the services of a chaplain in a hospital setting often improves a patient’s satisfaction with care, and even increases how a patient perceives their quality of life, which can lead to improved mental and physical outcomes.

Physicians, nurses and other hospital staff often call on members of the spiritual care department to help in times of crisis. On any given day, the chaplains at USA Health experience the full spectrum of life and death. In hospitals, families celebrate when a child is born, they gather to grieve those in their final hours, and they seek hope and healing for the sick and injured who are fighting to regain their health.

Outside the hospitals, Crawford Meeks speaks at dozens of events, including an annual memorial service held at Moulton Tower and Alumni Plaza to recognize members of the USA community who have passed. Another, every other year, honors the lives of donors to the USA Anatomical Gifts Program. That program plays an integral role in the education of medical students, residents and physicians.

Throughout the year, Crawford Meeks visits healthcare workers and support staff face-to- face in their units to perform a blessing of the hands. With her eyes closed, she extends her own hands and says:

“Blessed be your hands that offer love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Blessed be your hands that offer hope to the hurting. Blessed be your hands that offer security to those who are afraid. Blessed be your hands that offer healing to the sick. Blessed be your hands that they may receive love in abundance of what you ask or imagine. Blessed be your loving hands.”

The setting varies, but the words and support are a constant.

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