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Pagan Clergy Hospital Visits

Author: Rev. etain.butterfly
Posted: April 10th. 2011
Times Viewed: 3,848

I am providing a little bit of background about me. I am an RN with a bachelor’s degree in health care administration. I have been in the healthcare system for more than 35 years, and I am also head minister/clergy for a legally incorporated Pagan/Wiccan group centered in Mid-Michigan. I retired from the huge hospital and now work in a local surgery center.

I have looked for information about being clergy within a hospital setting but found not much is available. Because of my healthcare experience I have decided to share some information that may help others considering hospital ministry visits.

I have approached 2 local hospitals in my area to be on their clergy call list and obtain privileges to visit patients asking for Pagan/Wiccan spiritual care. The first hospital was the place I had worked for 35+ years. I met with the head of the spiritual care team and sat down with her to find out what I needed to do to get privileges. She requested documentation that I was indeed clergy and then proceeded to share informational guidelines/policies for the hospital. Some of the items covered were:
•Picture ID
•After-hours access
•Privacy issues

I was fortunate to have had a working relationship with this person before I retired and this gave me an advantage of being able to having an open dialog with her. She knew me and my reputation during the many years I worked in this facility. She was comfortable with telling me her concerns of having Pagan clergy performing rituals within the hospital setting. So, after listening to her I assured her that I was aware of how different this would be for everyone concerned (patients, staff, and administration) . I shared with her that I would introduce myself to the staff on the unit I would be visiting and ask for any information that they felt I needed to know about the patient. She already knew I was well aware of the privacy concerns that centered on sharing information with others without permission from the patient. I also told her I would conduct myself as any other clergy would conduct themselves during hospital visitation. She was satisfied with how I handled myself during the interview and sent me to security for my picture ID.

Most facilities require you to wear your ID badge at all times, be sure you have yours available for easy viewing. You need to know what area is assigned for clergy parking. Many facilities have parking structures that charge by the hour or by the day and many provide you with a parking pass that waives the parking fee. You also need to know if you are called after-hours (non-visitation hours) , where should you park and what doors are open for after- hours entry.

Another issue is the privacy of the patient. You must keep all information about the patient private and not share it with anyone without permission from the patient. It is easy to slip up and mention in social conversation that you did a hospital visit when talking to other members of your organization or group. It is important to ask the patient what information if any they want shared.

After acquiring privileges with this hospital it was easy to acquiring privileges for the second hospital. All I had to do was apply and share with them I already had privileges at another local hospital. Many times one badge is good for all area hospitals, however you still have to ask for privileges and get on their clergy call list.

I gave much thought on how I would handle my visits and I felt it was best not to show up with an outfit and jewelry that shouted PAGAN. I had no intention of making anyone feel uncomfortable. I decided it was best to dress in a casual, comfortable outfit and carry a small tote with basic supplies that may be needed during my visits (cloak, candles, oils, alter cloths, chalice, etc.) . Remember, I still have an advantage of know many of staff members, although they were not aware I was Pagan. My plan was to give the hospital staff time to get comfortable with me for those that had not met me. I also wanted to let everyone know I was approachable for any questions they had about Paganism.

Drawing from my knowledge of being a nurse in a hospital setting and being clergy I want to share some of the things you may want to think about when planning your hospital visits:

•Take the time to introduce yourself to the staff; they can make a big difference in your transition of providing Pagan spiritual care.

•If you plan on having others helping you during the ritual, make sure you get permission. There may be a restriction on numbers of visitors.

•Show respect for the patient in the next bed if it is a double occupancy room:
1. Most likely they are non-Pagan, so be aware of noise level [chanting and singing].
2. You can pull the curtains closed to allow for more privacy.

•Be aware of safety issue:
1. Is oxygen being used for either patient? No matches/lighters are to be used.
2. You may want to cancel altogether the use of candles that you light. I always take flameless candles.
3. Be aware that smells bother people more when they are ill/hospitalized. You may want to limit using incense and oils. If you decide to use incense, ask the patient in the other bed if he/she minds.
4. Keep in mind that many people have allergies. This is important when asking about incense and oils.
5. Is the patient on a NPO diet (nothing per mouth) , no food or drink?

•When you are contacted to do clergy visitation, remember to ask some basic questions from the patient:
1. Ask if he/she is in or out of the closet in case family members or friends are present.
2. If doing a ritual, have a generic ritual on hand or postpone ritual altogether to avoid problems.
3. Does the patient work with specific deities? – Try to incorporate them.

Because Pagan/Wicca hospital visitation is a relatively new it is going to be what I call a “work-in-progress”. Meaning you will have to learn what is allowed and what will work best for you. Remember you may experience some resistance when you first start out but be persistent and patience will prevail.


Rev. etain.butterfly

Location: Davison, Michigan


Author's Profile: To learn more about Rev. etain.butterfly - Click HERE

Bio: I am an Eclectic Pagan, Head Minister/President of Sacred Birch Society - Mid Michigan.

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