A Hospital Chaplain is valuable physically, financially and spiritually

Published 9:35 pm Saturday, May 28, 2011

In case you’ve been out of touch for a few days, Forrest General Hospital of Hattiesburg, which owns and runs the Highland Community Hospital in Picayune, is building a $95 million dollar hospital in Picayune. I was greatly impressed the other day when I visited the site. Shortly after Forrest General announced plans to build a new facility a letter from President Bill Oliver’s office informed me, “We will definitely include space for a chaplain’s office in the new hospital “. A well-run chaplain’s program is a valuable asset physically, financially, and spiritually.

In addition to improving health care, there is a proven financial reason for having a chaplain in the hospital. In his book, “Something Else to Smile About,” Zig Zigler promotes chaplaincy as a great way to cut health costs.” Hospitals can save big bucks by putting chaplains on their health care teams”, he declared.

He went on to tell about a Veterans Administration study to find ways to improve quality and control costs. The medical treatments involved costly and complicated procedures such as bypass surgery, valve replacements, and open-heart surgery. The study compared one group of patients, which had daily visits from a chaplain, to a second group which received only an average of three minutes during their entire hospital stay.

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The report stated that “Patients who had the most contact with the chaplains were released from the hospital an average of two days sooner than those who did not receive regular visits.” Chaplain visits cost less than $100 per patient. The savings by letting the patient go home two days early, amounted to approximately $4000 a day.”

More important than saving money, she noted, was that the chaplain’s visits resulted in a significant improvement in the patients health. She wrote, “The group visited by chaplains also had fewer complications after surgery .”

A Hospital Chaplain is a Spiritual Blessing

I cannot think of a more caring time for offering prayer and counsel than when a person is in a hospital bed. Although the chaplain is a skillful counselor and the physicians give the best of medical treatment they are well aware that healing comes only from God. Take for example the case of the pastor of a large church in a city in north Louisiana. He had worked so hard to serve his people that he wound up in the hospital burned out and deeply depressed. The hospital chaplain came to his room accompanied by a visiting minister. After a brief conversation the chaplain asked the visitor to pray for the pastor and his people.

A couple of years passed and that pastor was selected to preach the convention sermon at the annual meeting of his denomination. Near the close of his message, to illustrate the power of prayer, he told about his the time he was healed of a deep depression. He said, “The chaplain came to my hospital room bringing friend. After we visited for a few minutes the chaplain called on his the friend to pray for me. As he prayed I felt the presence of the Lord and from that moment, a great burden was lifted and I was sent home a happy man. The name of the chaplain’s friend who prayed for me that day was Dr. Jack Watson a professor from the New Orleans Baptist Seminary.”

Now, here’s my take on that event: I am telling it as I heard it from two Seminary faculty members who were there because I did not go to the Convention that year. The chaplain and I must have seen a number of patients that day and I have no real memory of our visit with the depressed pastor. I doubt if our visit with the depressed pastor was much different from our other bedside visits but the truth of the matter is that the Lord can take our meager efforts and do wonderful things. The moral: The chaplain makes his rounds but he can never honestly claim credit for the good things that come about. The credit goes to the Lord who healed him when the pastor opened his heart during the prayer.

Let me repeat, these studies showed that “patients who had the most contact with the chaplains were released from the hospital an average of two days sooner than those who did not receive regular visits. The savings by letting the patient go home two days early amounted to approximately $4000 a day at the time of the study. But that was then, today a hospital stay would be about triple that amount, say around $15,000 a day while the chaplain visits have remained at around $100 per visit. The chaplain is a valuable asset financially and physically as well as spiritually. As Zig Zigler said, “That’s something to smile about.”