Chaplain Jennifer Crouse

What would it be like to start a career in healthcare during the largest pandemic the world has experienced during the last century? Just ask Jennifer Crouse. After completing her Clinical Pastoral Education training at Pacific Health Ministry in August, she was named staff Chaplain at Maui Memorial Medical Center.

In September, Jennifer packed up her bags, left Oahu, and moved to Maui. Following a two-week quarantine, she immediately started her new position. “It’s been an adventure, a real experience,” she says. The pandemic has highlighted the need for chaplains and the importance of the work that they do. “While we have always provided support to patients, family members and staff, we have had to take the place of family and friends at bedsides because of visitor restrictions due to the pandemic. Often times, we’re sitting with patients or family members who haven’t seen their loved ones in 30 days, or even longer. Now imagine if this is during a time when someone is facing their end of life. Our role becomes that much more important.”

Whereas physicians treat the physical body, chaplains offer spiritual guidance and pastoral care to patients and their families using the insights and principles of psychology, religion, spirituality and theology. There is a misconception that chaplains are requested only in times when prayers are needed. But, says Jennifer, the needs are far greater than that. “We are present when others can’t be. We listen, we facilitate, we hold the space, we liaise between the unit and the family member, and we work with the interprofessional teams. What’s more, we’re not only there for the patients and their families, but also for the staff and physicians.”

Thinking of the front-line healthcare workers, Jennifer empathized that they are facing a challenge unlike any other. Earlier this year, PHM chaplains began offering daily Words of Encouragement to the healthcare teams to provide comfort and inspiration. Adds Jennifer, “chaplains are continually finding ways to support people.”

Thus far, one of the most memorable experiences for Jennifer has been a blessing she conducted for a stillbirth, which provided a space for the parents to share their love. “Our job as chaplains gives us the privilege to enter people’s lives in the most grievous situations, and these moments are just so sacred,” she says. “When I step into a room, it’s not about me. My full attention is the least I can give.”

Providing spiritual and emotional care; that is what chaplains like Jennifer Crouse do on a regular basis. They sit and walk alongside people in the midst of both bright and dark times. Jennifer and all other chaplains serving with Pacific Health Ministry complete the picture of holistic care; by addressing the needs of patients, their loved ones, staff and physicians in healthcare and long-term care institutions throughout Hawaii.