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Medicine for the Soul

Chaplains provide another dimension of care at the UVA Hospital

Chaplain Melvin Janzen slips his hands into the pockets of his white lab coat as he inches closer to a bank of windows on the seventh floor of the UVA Medical Center. He pauses, staring out into the bright sun while reflecting on the previous few hours sitting with a family whose 10-day-old baby had been removed from life support. In this spot, Janzen says, he calls on his faith.

Like the other chaplains who frequent the halls of the UVA Medical Center, Janzen provides people facing some of life's greatest challenges with a sense of peace, patiently listening, offering caring words.

The counsel they offer is nondenominational and based on the principle that medical care goes hand in hand with spiritual care.

While there are several full-time chaplains on call, there are also student chaplains in residency, as is customary in a teaching hospital. They take seminars and classes and complete hands-on rotations as they hone the craft of delivering pastoral care.

The days can be like roller coasters, dipping at the lows when dealing with life-threatening traumas and death, and climbing to the highs when patients recover and are able to go home healthy.

"I try to meet people at their level of faith," says Stephone Coleman, a chaplaincy resident, "and just rely on my faith and being present to provide comfort."

What follows are photographs taken over the course of several weeks at the UVA Medical Center as the chaplains and chaplaincy residents went about their workdays.

Photography by Chris Tyree

AFTERMATH  After sitting for several hours with the family of an infant who died, Melvin Janzen takes a moment to reflect outside the pediatric intensive care unit.

Chaplaincy resident Liz Adam reflects on her overnight shift during a morning meeting with other chaplains where she details the visits she made during the night.

CALMING FEARS  In the UVA Medical Center's emergency department, Chaplain Melvin Janzen comforts a woman who has been hit by a car.

Janzen comforts the mother of a 10-day-old baby with a genetic disease, moments before the infant was taken off of life support. Chaplains keep detailed notes on each of their interactions with patients, families and even staff. After this visit, Janzen wrote: "RN kept me informed about pending withdrawal of life support. Parents waiting for sister. They have requested baptism." Later, he wrote: "Parents, aunt, cousin and best friend present for baptism. Aunt quietly sang, 'You Are My Sunshine,' during the time of holding the baby. But mother did not want to be present for withdrawal. The father/others stayed. Chaplain stayled with mother in Consult Room. Later took her back into the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit for final goodbye."

DARKEST HOURS  Chaplaincy resident Patricia Hendricks meets in an emergency department waiting room with family members of a patient who suffered an aneurysm and was not expected to live. A relative outside of the patient stands alone outside the room.

Hendricks speaks to the 28-year-old son of the patient. Her notes from the visit read: "10:12 a.m. ... Family arrived. Large family of sisters, brothers, cousins. Patient is the last-born in the family of origin. Has three children, two boys and one girl. Patient's son is the first to arrive. His mom died last year. Also his girlfriend and grandmother died last year. Pastoral care and prayer."

While heading to the pediatric floor of the UVA Medical Center, Hendricks checks a page from the emergency department. She was four hours into a 24-hour shift, which chaplaincy residents complete once a week. A typical weekday shift runs from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.

LONG DAY  After a full workday and then taking an after-hours seminar, Don Moore, a UVA Medical Center staff chaplain, wipes his brow outside his office while speaking with Stephone Coleman, a chaplaincy resident.

IN THE CLASSROOM  The Rev. Mildred Best, third from right, director of the department of chaplaincy services and pastoral education for the UVA Medical Center, listens with the current cohort of chaplaincy residents to Maurice Apprey, a UVA psychiatry professor, as he explains personality theory. Chaplaincy residents spend three mornings a week in class and the rest of their workweek in assigned clinical units with patients, families or staff. Pictured from left to right are Patricia Hendricks, Tammy James, Leslie Jarzabski, Liz Adam, Rev. Best, Stephone Coleman and Apprey.

A MOMENT OF LEVITY  Chaplain Don Moore and Tammy James, a chaplaincy resident, celebrate the birthday of another chaplain after a morning meeting.

Coleman meets with a man scheduled to have hip surgery the next day. Chaplains meet with patients at their request or if nurses believe the patient might have a need.

Coleman prays over a 9-week-old boy quarantined in the pediatric intensive care unit with a severe viral infection. The boy's mother is pictured behind Coleman.