Chaplains at CAMC have extensive education, training
CAMC’s pastoral care department is an invaluable support service not only for patients and their families, but for the entire employee network as well. But there is a lot more than meets the eye in pastoral care. CAMC’s chaplains have an extensive amount of training, inside the classroom and out. Two of CAMC’s chaplains, Rev. Ravi Isaiah and Sister Frances Kirtley, are board certified, which means they are required to have a master’s degree and must have two years of clinical training. While each chaplain can be of any faith, he or she must be endorsed by his or her religious group. They must also complete continuing education requirements each year to keep their certification. Almost all of CAMC’s chaplains have a master’s degree. CAMC’s director of pastoral care, Ravi Isaiah, has an undergraduate degree in psychology, a master’s of divinity and a doctorate of pastoral counseling. He is board certified and a licensed professional counselor. “The academics have helped me to be exposed to different theologies, philosophies and the psychology of the human mind. This education has given me a broad scope of understanding how religion, heritage, culture, language, psychology and experience of life impact lives, especially when suffering,” Isaiah said. Rev. Jim Robinson, on-call chaplain at CAMC, has a bachelor’s degree in business management and a master’s of divinity. He also spent 20 years in the U.S. Marine Corps. “Being grounded in faith and self-awareness is key,” Robinson said. “I think it is important for the provider to be mature in faith and in understanding of what is often present in difficult situations allows the chaplain to help in positive ways. I would not have the tools to do so without my education and training.” Chaplain Bruce Keeling has a bachelor’s degree in theology and ministry and a master’s in religion and philosophy. “Understanding people and their unique situations, culture, beliefs/value systems that shape and inform their understanding of the world is crucial to providing spiritual support,” Keeling said. “I think without the education I have this would be difficult, if not impossible.” Sr. Kirtley has a bachelor’s degree in elementary education and nursing, as well as a master’s degree in pastoral studies. “Both human compassion and demonstration of spirituality are fundamental to the ministry of a chaplain,” she said. “Medical/ethical dilemmas are frequent situations which call for the assistance of a chaplain.” While a strong educational base is important to the profession, a rare compassion and sense of understanding is vital to these chaplains. “Working with people is perhaps the highest privilege I can think of as a human being,” Isaiah said. “It requires a great deal of sensitivity to others’ experiences even when your beliefs are in conflict with others. We are trained to set our agenda aside in order to meet the people where they are in their spiritual, emotional and ethical journey or struggle. ” “We struggle to find the ‘right’ answer to many situations,” Robinson said. “Yes, we have the education and experience, but the human element makes each situation somewhat unique. Some people may be surprised to see that we do not think of ourselves as having a “direct line” to God who provides all the right answers. Kirtley said she chose pastoral care after working in the health care field as a nurse. “In many situations, I saw dying patients without any family or pastoral support,” Kirtley said. “I met patients and families who live far away and missed the presence of their pastors who were unable to be present. The needs were very obvious.”
Isaiah, Keeling and Robinson said that they didn’t choose ministry as a career, rather it chose them.
“It has been interesting, exciting at times, frustrating and tiring, as well,” Robinson said. “It is often emotionally draining. But I continue because I feel what we do is important, and maybe something I say or do will make a difference for someone going through a very bad time in his or her life.”
Pastoral care’s services are open to anyone in any CAMC facility. Each of the four hospitals has a prayer room, available around the clock for patients, families, visitors and employees . “We do not have any hidden agenda. Our calling is to be a pastor to Christians, Hindus, Muslims, Jews, Agnostics and Atheists,” Isaiah said. For more information about the pastoral care department, visit camc.org. A chaplain is available around the clock, and can be reached through the hospital operator at (304) 388-5432.