First Class of Volunteer Hospital Chaplains Graduates from UMC

First Class of Volunteer Hospital Chaplains Graduates from UMC

First Class of Volunteer Hospital Chaplains Graduates from UMC

Nearly two dozen people graduate Friday as volunteer University Medical Center chaplains after completing 10 weeks of basic training in ministering to the spiritual needs of hospital patients.
The new graduates are as diverse as the patients they will serve. They come from a variety of religious backgrounds including Catholicism, Judaism and several Protestant denominations; two describe their religious affiliation as "interfaith." They range in age from 30 to 77. Half hold master's or doctoral degrees. Several are retired, but most are working people -- teachers, construction workers, ministers, engineers, a computer programmer , a physician, and a nurse, for example.

The new graduates will visit patients in the hospital's regular medical-surgical units, including pediatrics. Most plan to volunteer two to four hours of pastoral care each week. UMC hires professionally trained clergy on a per diem basis to assist patients in the intensive care units and the Trauma Center.

"I've been a nurse for 22 years, and one of the things that is very clear to me is the relationship between spirituality and health," said new graduate Cheryl McGaffic, RN, PhD, a clinical associate professor at the UA College of Nursing. "Learning how to be with people in a spiritual way - I really value that part of caring."

UMC maintained a professional chaplaincy program for nearly two decades but budget restrictions necessitated the program's closure last September. Since then, UMC staff chaplain Will Tilley, M.Div., and training coodinator Susan Berryman, M.Ed., have been working to recruit and educate a volunteer corps of chaplains to assist them in providing pastoral care to UMC patients, their families, and staff.

"Our goal is to be able to have a volunteer chaplain available to visit every patient, every day that they are in the hospital," Rev. Tilley said. "We will need about 100 volunteers to provide this service. Today's graduation is a wonderful first step in that direction."

UMC's next training session for volunteer chaplains begins in the fall. The course covers such topics as compassionate listening, theology, interpersonal and inter-psychic issues, beliefs, death and dying, and supervised pastoral visits. Twenty-five hours of morning or evening sessions are offered over 10 weeks. Please call 694-6826 if you have an interest in becoming a UMC volunteer chaplain.

The C. Reed Hill Memorial Fund at the UMC Foundation, P.O. Box 245128, Tucson AZ 85724 is accepting donations to underwrite the Volunteer Chaplain Training Program. The training program, as well as UMC's per diem chaplains in the Trauma Center and ICUs, is entirely funded through this endowment.


Assignment editors: Media are invited to attend the graduation ceremony in the Sarver Heart Center board room, Room 4137 at UMC, 1501 N. Campbell Ave., at 11 a.m. Friday, April 26.