‘We cannot lose hope’: The important role hospital chaplains play in the pandemic


SACRAMENTO, Calif. (KTXL) — Chaplains have been playing an important role in the lives of patients and health care workers as they cope with the pandemic.

“We cannot lose hope. We have to maintain and keep hope alive,” said Rev. Samuel Brown-Dawson.

Rev. Brown-Dawson is a voice of comfort in the intensive care unit.

“Sometimes in those times, people just want to know that there is somebody who cares and sometimes someone who can pray with them and for them,” Rev. Brown-Dawson told NewsNation affiliate KTXL.

He has worked in hospitals for more than 30 years and is currently the manager of chaplaincy services at UC Davis Health.

The chaplains agreed early in the pandemic to stay on as essential workers, wearing full protective equipment.

“So, we are able to go in at any time,” Rev. Brown-Dawson explained. “Many times because the family cannot come, we also take the responsibility of calling and talking to some family members to help them.”

Sometimes Rev. Brown-Dawson uses an iPad to connect the family members to a patient. Other times he can be found in the hospital parking lot comforting grieving relatives.

The chaplains also play a role in the emotional and spiritual lives of hospital staff members.

“Right now, as I’m talking here, we have one of our chaplains who is upstairs in the unit serving tea. We call it ‘tea for the soul’ to the nurses, to the staff in that unit because they are stressed because it is a challenging time,” he said.

As a firsthand witness to the heavy toll COVID-19 is taking, Rev. Brown-Dawson encourages everyone to take the risk seriously and follow guidelines that help prevent the spread.

“Respect yourself, respect others,” he said. “If you don’t do it for yourself, do it for others.”

Rev. Brown-Dawson said he doesn’t claim to have the answers as to why bad things like a pandemic happen.

“But a beautiful thing is for me, God has promised not to leave us, to always be with us,” he said. “We do not have a guarantee that we will not have challenges, suffering, sickness, poverty. But in those moments of time, what do we hold on to?”

He reminded everyone that humanity has a long history of overcoming great challenges.

“And God knows, and God cares,” the chaplain said.

The chaplains also comfort each other and connect on Zoom with chaplains from other hospitals, talking about their own anxieties, fears and concerns.

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