Chaplain provides spiritual care to patientsAs chaplain at Fairview Red Wing Hospital, the Rev. Karen Hanson spends her days tending to the spiritual care of patients.
By: Ruth Nerhaugen, The Republican Eagle
As chaplain at Fairview Red Wing Hospital, the Rev. Karen Hanson spends her days tending to the spiritual care of patients.
But her approach is to build on prayer with other dimensions that promote patient health, from music to the broader scope of spirituality.
“It’s really a fun and diverse job,” she said.
Beyond spiritual health, Hanson also is involved in leadership of other programs, including diversity, and other areas at the hospital.
It has a history in the faith communities that established the original St. John’s Hospital, she pointed out. “Fairview Red Wing is very committed to spiritual care. They utilize me as a chaplain very well.”
Hanson uses her talents as a musician — she is worship and music director and organist at United Lutheran Church — to enhance what she brings to the role.
“I bring some music therapy,” she explained. “There is a spiritual dimension with music.”
In addition to playing the grand piano in the lunchroom at Fairview Red Wing, Hanson said the hospital has ordered a small harp that she also will use that in a music therapy setting. She plays a number of instruments.
Among the roles Hanson embraces as chaplain is being part of a care team along with social workers, nurses, physicians and psychologists, who all are involved in the care of cancer patients.
She is involved in the I Can Cope sessions which are offered quarterly to cancer patients along with their
families and caregivers. The next session is coming up
“I Can Cope reflects how Fairview approaches health — the whole person: body, mind and spirit,” she explained. All of those dimensions are important to caring not only cancer patients, but all patients, Hanson added. The team also brings in allied health professionals including therapists who provide complementary forms of medicine.
“As people face crisis, change, challenge, the spiritual dimension plays an important role,” Hanson said. She holds that up before patients as they face questions: How will they cope with the illness? Who around them can provide support?
It’s also important, Hanson added, when people with cancer ask themselves questions, such as “What did I do to deserve this?” and when they need to talk about forgiveness, including self-forgiveness.
Many want to talk about their relationship with God — the divine, the universe — and the effect on their treatment, along with the meaning and purpose of the things they are going through, Hanson said — “and the courage it takes to go through.”
As a spiritual resource, she gets referrals from the care team, from families, from churches and from patients themselves. She brings in those spiritual elements and makes them part of the patient’s care plan.
“Lots of patients are part of the faith community,” she noted. She keeps people’s pastors and priests and other faith professionals in the loop, making sure they are connected with the patients and aware of their needs.