Lowcountry hospital chaplains describe challenges of care in COVID-19 pandemic

Published: Sep. 1, 2021 at 3:46 PM EDT|Updated: Sep. 1, 2021 at 5:30 PM EDT
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CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - Hospital chaplains across the Lowcountry are supporting the spiritual and emotional needs of patients and their families, which has been a particularly challenging and emotional task for chaplains the past 18 months.

When the doors open to the ICU at Roper St. Francis Hospital in Mt Pleasant, you get a glimpse of doctors and nurses at work, helping patients physically heal.

But as some patients battle COVID-19 in the unit, those patients, their families and the staff that care for them all need another type of healing too.

“They also need emotional and spiritual care, and that’s where the chaplains come in,” said Reverend Kevin Bennett, who’s one of the chaplains for Roper Hospital.

Bennett began his work as a chaplain for Roper Hospital right at the start of the pandemic.

Seeing these very sick patients who are scared of the unknown has been challenging. That challenge has been made even more difficult, Bennett said, because COVID patients in the ICU are not allowed visitors.

According to Bennett, their families rely on him and other hospital staff to talk to their loved one.

“They stay at home waiting for a phone call or a facetime with a patient if that’s possible, but that’s not the same as being there,” he said.

Bennett said seeing what these families endure is a heavy burden to bear, especially when a patient finally loses his or her battle.

“We care,” he said. “To see a family saying goodbye when they haven’t seen that loved one for weeks or maybe months, puts a lot of weight on your shoulders.”

But Bennett said the hospital chaplains and all the medical staff keep putting one foot in front of the other, hoping their resilience will carry them through the pandemic.

His message to the community: do your part, wear your mask, get a vaccine and think of others.

“I’d almost guarantee there’s somebody around you that has a patient somewhere that’s probably in the hospital because of COVID or has COVID but didn’t have to go,” Bennett said. “Position yourself and posture yourself in a way that you might be helpful to them.”

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