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Spiritual Care Lends Strength to COVID-19 Patients

Kaiser Permanente spiritual care teams are providing emotional support in ways both old and new to patients and employees during the COVID-19 pandemic. Pictured, Lisa Schilbe, left, and Margaret Gelini, both chaplains at Kaiser Permanente San Francisco.

Fear, sadness, and pain can surround a patient suffering acute illness such as COVID-19. Front-line physicians and nurses are working tirelessly to provide the excellent medical care.

But there is also a team of 50 spiritual care professionals in Kaiser Permanente Northern California who inspire joy, strengthen resilience, and bring comfort to the patients.

“We are here to help humanize this difficult experience,” said Carrie Buckner, director of Spiritual Care Services for Kaiser Permanente Alameda County. “People need a way to normalize their feelings, and we’re here to do that.”

Buckner is also co-chair of the Spiritual Care Leaders Peer Group for the Northern California region. Spiritual care professionals are comprised of palliative and hospice specialists and acute care chaplains who provide a diverse range of spiritual and emotional support.

During the COVID-19 public health crisis, the work of these staff members has taken on a new look. Because patient visitors are not allowed at Kaiser Permanente facilities for safety reasons, spiritual care teams have found new ways of caring for patients and connecting them to their loved ones.

“Every day we call or Facetime the family members of our COVID-19 patients,” Buckner said. “We reassure them, support them, and let them know we are praying for them.”

Small Things Make a Big Difference

Lisa Schilbe, acute care chaplain at Kaiser Permanente San Francisco, teared up as she recalled the special moments shared with her COVID-19 patients.

Recently diagnosed with the disease and in isolation, an elderly woman was frustrated because she had forgotten her reading glasses at home. The second Schilbe heard this, she tracked down a new pair of glasses and, knowing the patient was Jewish, also gifted her a Passover packet filled with goodies.

“These patients miss their families,” she said. “I’m here to be a calming presence and a voice of encouragement, of hope, and of peace.”

Another of Schilbe’s patients expressed that she didn’t feel God’s presence while awaiting COVID-19 test results. Knowing the patient was Catholic, Schilbe prayed with her over the phone then collected rosary beads, a ceramic heart, and a card on which she wrote positive affirmations and her name and phone number to be reached at any time.

“The nurse shared that the patient’s test results came back negative, and she was moved out of isolation,” Schilbe said. “I was able to hand her the rosary and heart myself. It was a touching moment.”

Both Schilbe and Buckner shared countless stories about the ways they have brought smiles to their patients’ faces.

Medical Workers Need Encouragement, Too

Long days, exceptionally hard experiences, and stress have naturally taken a toll on Kaiser Permanente’s clinicians during this unprecedented time. Many spiritual care members have offered guidance, reassurance, and support to front-line staff who need it.

“We pray for those who ask us to,” said Buckner. “We encourage staff to use good self-care practices and we try to show our deep gratitude for their incredible work.”

At the San Francisco Medical Center, a quiet room was set up for staff to relax, refocus, and have reprieves between shifts. Weekly calls have also been scheduled, some led by spiritual care team members, for employees to express their challenges and tribulations.

Although times are difficult, Schilbe tells her patients and peers to see the light at the end of the tunnel, and to always remember the power of compassion.

“My hope is that at the end of this, the world will have greater compassion for one another and realize we all need each other.”

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This Post Has 30 Comments
  1. What a beautiful article. These are very trying times and we are so thankful for our Spiritual Care teams!! In Roseville we have prayed every Monday for the past 11 years. We pray for our Leadership, all staff, patients, family, any requests in the prayer bowl and any people we know that need it. It is truly a blessing to have Chaplain Alice Anderson and all the volunteers that serve our hospital and our community. God Bless us all at this time.

  2. This is so God , He brings his Word and Love to a most challenging time for all of Us. Praise God , Our Holy King for the prayers from all of these lovely KP workers.
    It is so encouraging to know that this is happening. I will keep lifting up all Healthcare workers worldwide, as well as Our World in prayer. God is so good…All the time! May He guide us through this time and put an end to this virus. Praying for All <3

  3. What an encouragement to know that people are lifting others in prayer in this trying time! I believe this offers hope and solace and healing as we await the end of this pandemic. God be with you as you provide this important service to Kaiser members!

  4. This is awesome! May God bless you all for devoting time to uplift and help our patients in this very lonely and isolated disease process. Spiritual strength is so powerful and it is needed so much at this time.
    May the Lord strengthen all of us, Amen.

  5. Hi Ms Mildred,
    Thank you for sending people encouraging and hopeful messages , that way most of them won’t feel that they are alone.
    I would love to be a part and volunteer to help spread hope despite the overwhelming effect of this pandemic.
    I am one of the millions of volunteers in our community that that are doing the same thing and I would love to share this with my Kaiser community.
    Please let me know.
    Thanks and have a safe day.

  6. Oh what joy this brings me to see so many people praising the Lord. Yes, He is mighty and still on the throne. He can do all things!! Nothing is impossible for Him!! Thank you to you all who shared your love and faith in the Lord. Thank you to the spiritual team for bringing joy into those lives who may feel lost, lonely and scared. May the Lord keep you and guide you. I would love to join in prayer with you. I will send an email to you for more information.

  7. I am disappointed that your only examples are for those who have religious beliefs. What do you do for non-believers? Do you provide secular counselors as part of the project such as psychologists or psychiatrists trained perhaps in issues surrounding death?

    1. Hi John. We appreciate your comment and respect your perspective. Spiritual care professionals are there to support the wishes, beliefs, and values of the patient, religious or secular. Many non-religious patients work with spiritual care professionals for emotional support and to make their stay at the hospital more comfortable. Palliative care professionals also work to promote quality of life for patients, and their families, who are living with a chronic progressive illness.

  8. It is with heartfelt gratitude for our spiritual leaders in this organization are reaching out to those in search of emotional and spiritual needs. We are all soul searching at during this time and hope that our souls as well as are bodies stay safe at time when hope can seem hard to come by. Thank you.

  9. Amen to all of this!!! So very happy that the spirit of those in need is being tended too. John 3:16. “For God so loved the world that he gave his only beloved son that whosoever believeth in him should not perish but have everlasting life.” There is definitely more to this life and to help all those in need without knowing what the outcome will be is giving them hope for now or forever. Continue the work. My prayers are with you. May the mighty one keep you all uplifted in this health crisis and spiritual fight.

  10. These articles give hope to the hopeless, and increases strength for those awaiting test results. Human Kindness definitely goes a long ways. Glad to see KP knows the bigger picture. Well Done.

  11. Thanks for all the comfort, prayers & support the Spiritual Care team provides to pts & Kaiser employees. God bless you in your work & glad that Kaiser recognizes the value to faith/spirituality plays in the healing process of mind/body.

  12. This is so awesome. It is just what people need right now. We all need it. I work in San Francisco Kaiser. I would love to get involved in prayer if you guys need help with this team. Please let me know, how I can get involved. God Bless you all.

    1. Hi Mildred. Thank you for the comment. Feel free to email Lisa Schilbe through the Kaiser Permanente directory to get involved.

        1. Hi Joy. Thank you very much for your interest in volunteering. I will connect you with Lisa who will give you more information on getting involved.

  13. My heartfelt thanks to all you wonderful people, who are graciously helping, loving and praying for those in need for strength, peace and comfort. God bless you all.
    “And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them.” 1John 4:16.

  14. It’s heartwarming to know that patients are comforted through the Spiritual Care Team. You are angels. I’m praying for healing and strength.

  15. This article brought me to tears. The humanity of it all. It serves as a reminder that God is good and that spirituality looks different for many of us but the end result is the same. Feeling loved and cared for and given hope! Thank you all!

  16. Thank you for this touching article about the power of love and prayer. I’m happy to see Kaiser Permanente acknowledges that healing the spirit goes hand in hand with healing the body.

  17. Love this article and the meaningful work the Spiritual Care team is leading. This too shall pass, but until so, it’s been healing to see so many lean in to love and serve one another! Hoping the world learns this powerful basic lesson during this time – “Love one another”.

  18. God is STILL on The Throne and in control of all of this. Thank you for being His hands and feet during this trying time. God bless you for all you are doing!!

    1. How touching and uplifting this share is. Thank you all for being such a great example and providing the comfort, regardless to the level in these times within KP’s walls. Your spiritual generosity is seen and appreciated. Amen.

  19. This article moved me because though I already know God is moving, it is always awesome to know He is moving in others lives. The team I work with; OCC Richmond gather together for prayer and it is incredible how the great power of the Holy Spirit fills the atmosphere when His children gather together in prayer.
    Thank you again for the article & if you need help, give me a holler:)
    Deborah

    1. Hi Consuelo. You can reach out to either Ruth Kuo or Peter Meadow through the Kaiser Permanente directory. They are chaplains at Kaiser Permanente Santa Clara. Thank you.

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