Reflections of a Hospital Chaplain by David Figliuzzi

One of the expressions of my call to ministry has been my work as a hospital chaplain at Baystate Medical Center in Springfield, MA – a 716-bed hospital that serves a large area that includes southern VT, western MA, eastern NY and northern CT.

I was honored to join the staff of the Spiritual Care Department at Baystate to serve as an on-call chaplain at the completion of a required educational program, Clinical Pastoral Education.

This summer, the hospital had a relatively low number of COVID patients within the system (the system includes some smaller hospitals in Western Mass). In August, the number of COVID patients hovered around 25. That number began to rise in the fall and I remember feeling some shock in December when the number of COVID patients exceeded 90.

On January 10, Baystate Health reported that the number of covid patients was 284, more than ten times what it was at the end of summer. The CEO issued a statement saying that the system is “in a state of crisis,” operating at 110% of capacity with severe staff shortages. These kinds of numbers translate into long delays in the emergency room, postponed elective care, and a tremendous strain on the healthcare system.

The numbers tell part of the story, but, for me, the story is best told in the faces of my colleagues. The front-line workers are exhausted. Nurses are working overtime, environmental services staff is working around the clock to maintain hospital facility standards, and the list goes on. One nurse described it me as “feeling numb every day.” They long to be their best for each patient, but the current situation is simply unsustainable.

I am thankful that AHCC is doing all we can to keep our community safe and healthy. Please pray for our healthcare workers – doctors, nurses, all hospital staff. If you know someone working on the frontline of this pandemic wave, reach out and offer them support. If you can, offer assistance with errands, household chores, child care, meal preparation, snow removal – it will be welcome.

May we emerge from this pandemic with a true recognition of the heroes among us.

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