EDISON, N.J., April 25, 2020 /PRNewswire/ -- If there was ever a time when health care workers needed a spiritual lift, it's right now. Day after day, caregivers are experiencing a level of death and grief that is unprecedented. The tremendous loss of life is compounded by the sorrow they feel because family members can't be with their loved ones in the hospital. Time and again, doctors and nurses bear witness to a patient's final breath. As compassionate individuals who joined a profession of healing, the continuous process takes a heavy toll.
Recognizing that even caregivers need care, Hackensack Meridian Health has created the Spiritual Care Program to help team members deal with complex emotions in response to work related to COVID-19. The program is based upon providing access to sources of spiritual strength and inspiration.
"As our team members meet the extraordinary challenges of this pandemic, we are committed to supporting their well-being in every way possible," said Robert C. Garrett, FACHE, chief executive officer of Hackensack Meridian Health. "Many health care providers on the front lines of COVID-19 are providing extensive patient care while acting as surrogate family members for patients who are in isolation and separated from their own loved ones."
Some team members are also concerned with how the virus is impacting or might impact their colleagues and family members. To address all of these concerns, the Spiritual Care Program provides guidance and support focused around five categories of grief, fear, hope, faith and inner peace, and meditation, gratitude and purpose.
"Hackensack Meridian Health, the chaplains at each campus, and clergy from the community are collaborating in support of our courageous and dedicated team members as they work through this crisis," said Reverend David Cotton, regional director of Spiritual Care Services at Hackensack Meridian Health. "That collaboration extends to our colleagues in Integrative Health & Medicine and Behavioral Health, as we all share our strength, resources, and best practices during this time of change and stress."
The program, which launched this week, is an extension of the health network's chaplaincy service, which provides specially-trained, multi-faith clergy, who in this context will offer multi-platform support to team members, ranging from the scriptural to the practical.
"Fear and grief and hope pertain to human experience," said Reverend Cotton. "As professional chaplains, we are trained to minister to everyone. We recognize that people may be spiritual, but not religious - the idea is to have our arms open as wide as possible."
For all team members seeking respite and relief, the program will manifest in several forms that provide comfort and strength in written and spoken words. Resources include brief clergy-hosted videos and audio recordings that team members can tune into going to and from work or while on a break; inspirational written interpretations; a dedicated email through the health network's intranet to make prayer requests; and a designated quiet room in each hospital to use for meditation, self-care, prayer, reflection or just a calm place to retreat to for a break.
"Every spiritual and religious tradition emphasizes caring for the other, especially caring, regardless of the circumstance and sacrifice, putting yourself second and putting the patient first is the ethic we all share," said Reverend Cotton. "It's the humility and majesty of service."
ABOUT HACKENSACK MERIDIAN HEALTH
Hackensack Meridian Health is a leading not-for-profit health care organization that is the largest, most comprehensive and truly integrated health care network in New Jersey, offering a complete range of medical services, innovative research and life-enhancing care.
Hackensack Meridian Health comprises 17 hospitals from Bergen to Ocean counties, which includes three academic medical centers – Hackensack University Medical Center in Hackensack, Jersey Shore University Medical Center in Neptune, JFK Medical Center in Edison; two children's hospitals - Joseph M. Sanzari Children's Hospital in Hackensack, K. Hovnanian Children's Hospital in Neptune; nine community hospitals – Bayshore Medical Center in Holmdel, Mountainside Medical Center in Montclair, Ocean Medical Center in Brick, Palisades Medical Center in North Bergen, Pascack Valley Medical Center in Westwood, Raritan Bay Medical Center in Old Bridge, Raritan Bay Medical Center in Perth Amboy, Riverview Medical Center in Red Bank, and Southern Ocean Medical Center in Manahawkin; a behavioral health hospital – Carrier Clinic in Belle Mead; and two rehabilitation hospitals - JFK Johnson Rehabilitation Institute in Edison and Shore Rehabilitation Institute in Brick.
Additionally, the network has more than 500 patient care locations throughout the state which include ambulatory care centers, surgery centers, home health services, long-term care and assisted living communities, ambulance services, lifesaving air medical transportation, fitness and wellness centers, rehabilitation centers, urgent care centers and physician practice locations. Hackensack Meridian Health has more than 35,000 team members, and 7,200 physicians and is a distinguished leader in health care philanthropy, committed to the health and well-being of the communities it serves.
The network's notable distinctions include having four hospitals among the top in New Jersey by U.S. News and World Report. Other honors include consistently achieving Magnet® recognition for nursing excellence from the American Nurses Credentialing Center and being named to Becker's Healthcare's "150 Top Places to Work in Healthcare/2019" list.
The Hackensack Meridian School of Medicine at Seton Hall University opened in 2018, the first private medical school in New Jersey in more than 50 years, welcomed its second class of 96 students in 2019 to its On3 campus in Nutley and Clifton. Additionally, the network partnered with Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center to find more cures for cancer faster while ensuring that patients have access to the highest quality, most individualized cancer care when and where they need it.
Hackensack Meridian Health is a member of AllSpire Health Partners, an interstate consortium of leading health systems, to focus on the sharing of best practices in clinical care and achieving efficiencies. For additional information, please visit www.HackensackMeridianHealth.org.