Thursday, October 26, 2017

An Open End

It's been a really good week here at the beginning of my journey to chaplaincy.  First, because I was home with a painful knee (an inflammation flare up of some minor arthritis, apparently--age, weight, conditioning, and most importantly life-long limp related), I was able to spend last week completing my online Chaplaincy Care Volunteer Training course.  And I passed!  This was introductory but gave me some important vocabulary and strategies for my chaplaincy visits.  I also liked the administration of the course and mechanics of the online course and am therefore encouraged in my hopes to do a CPE (Clinical Pastroal Education) unit with them in the spring.

Then I spoke to my chaplain supervisor.  He encouraged my studies and liked my go-getter attitude.  When we reviewed my verbatim--a record of an exchange between patient and volunteer chaplain--he said that I was on the right track and learning quickly.  Yay!

And then last night, I attended a Lay Ministry training, with my fellow UU lay ministers (kinda like amateur community chaplains for our congregation.)  We discussed not trying to "fix it," being vs. doing, empathic listening, non-anxious presence, and open-ended questions.  I was familiar with all of these (from my online course and experience) but picked up some new strategies, specifically a great list of open-ended questions.  I sometimes flounder when talking to patients in how to get them to go deeper and be more reflective.  I rush through the silence, trying to get to the right question to unlock that next level.  Not exactly the best practice.  I liked these questions and look forward to using them.

  • What's helping you get through this (really lousy situation)?
  • What do you think keeps you from fixing the situation?
  • What's been the hardest part for you?
  • What's helped you through times like this in the past?
  • How would your parents/grandparents have helped a situation like this--rituals, prayers, etc.?
  • What are you hoping for? [This one was my addition and is one of my favorites.]
  • Is there anything you would find comforting right now? What brings you comfort? What strengthens you?
  • Is there anything from a spiritual perspective that helps--music, poetry, meditation?
  • How is your family handling this?
  • Are there any relationships that need healing?
  • What is a moment of awe that you remember? What puts a smile on your face as you reflect?
  • What gives your life meaning now?  What is meaningful to you?
  • Are there any symbols that are sacred/important to you right now?
  • What's on your mind/agenda today?
  • What are your biggest concerns?
  • Have there been any changes since the last time we met?  What has changed for you?
  • Where do you turn for help?  Do you turn to yourself for help?
  • How is your spirit today? [I really liked this one and can see using it instead of "How are you today?" which always seems to elicit something physical.]
  • Is God/the sacred/the holy part of your life or spiritual practice? [Our minister says she often prefaces this with "This is something I ask everyone."  This is a great way to introduce the spiritual, akin to my question, "Do you have a faith community?"]
  • Where is God/the sacred/the holy in all of this?
  • Are you connected to something bigger?
In fact, these are great questions for anyone to ask themselves.

I just got a call that my longtime hospice patient had a fall and broke her leg.  I'll see her Tuesday, though, because she can't really verbalize, I won't be using those questions.  We've been together for more than 18 months.  And falls often hasten the end . . . .

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