When a trauma patient comes into Lancaster General Hospital, the nurses and physicians aren’t the only people who spring into action. LGH chaplains from the Chaplaincy Care and Education Department provide support to trauma patients and their family members, as well as hospital staff who may be affected by the trauma.
Elizabeth Schultz, staff chaplain, and other members of the chaplaincy team support families with patients in the Trauma Neuro ICU and emergency departments.
“We are often the first contact with the families of trauma patients,” Schultz said.
When a trauma patient arrives, chaplains are often tasked with contacting family members and helping them through their emotional response, Schultz explained.
“For some people, this is a period of crisis, no matter the extent of the patient’s injuries. Reactions to crisis may include feelings of anxiety, fear, disorientation, and anger, as well as questions which may not be answered for some time,” she said. “Chaplains are trained to help a patient’s loved ones with all of these emotions and reactions.”
Chaplain services also collaborate with the trauma team to provide families with medical updates.
“Chaplains are uniquely positioned to quickly build trust and rapport with a patient’s family,” Schultz said, adding that both the family and the medical team appreciate when the chaplain stays during a medical update. “We are there to help the family understand the important information they are receiving at a time when it may be difficult for them to think clearly.”
Helping loved ones connect with their own support system can be a simple, yet vitally important, intervention, particularly when a patient’s hospitalization might be prolonged. LGH chaplains may help connect families with community clergy, friends, family or counseling services.
Along with providing support services for the families of trauma patients, the chaplains are available as a resource for employees who may have been affected by a trauma. One way they provide support is through a “post-code pause” following a death after a code blue or a major trauma event.
“We invite everyone to stay and we lead them through a short period of silence to honor their hard work,” said Schultz, adding that staff can use the moment of silence, usually 10 to 15 seconds, any way they want before transitioning back to their regular assignments. “We work to develop a relationship of trust with the staff, so that we can provide the support they need, whenever they need it.”