Chaplain Mentor Program

“I was ill and you cared for me.” –Matthew 25:36

Since the early 1990s, the Chaplain Mentor Program has been a staple component of education for Stritch School of Medicine students in their First Year, as a collaboration between the Loyola University Chicago Health Sciences Campus Ministry and Loyola University Medical Center Spiritual Care & Education office. This mission-based program offers medical students the opportunity to understand and cultivate skills and understanding that respond to the multi-dimensional aspects of patient care. Furthermore, this shadowing experience assists students in recognizing the importance of spirituality and the Ignatian principle of cura personalis (care for the whole person) in both the practice of medicine and the healing process.

Engagement in the Chaplain Mentor Program begins with an hour-long orientation, facilitated by a Health Sciences Ministry Chaplain and a Spiritual Care Chaplain from Loyola University Medical Center. Students are introduced to the specialized training and formation of Chaplains, as well as their roles and functions in a hospital system, within patient care, and as part of an interdisciplinary health care team. Students then engage in a two-hour shadowing experience with a trained Chaplain.

Following their mentoring encounter, students compose a two-page written reflection on their interactions and learnings. The program concludes with a small group reflection session, facilitated by a Ministry Chaplain, in which students exchange stories, insights, questions, and ongoing commitments concerning their exploration of themes such as “spirituality at the bedside,” suffering and healing, dimensions of patient care, and their own sense of calling to become a physician. These central components of reflection are foundational to our Ignatian roots to be “contemplatives in action,” and help students engage in the invitation to “find God in all things.” The debriefing sessions and written reflections additionally help students to better integrate the complexities of the experience and reconnect them to their personal mission and vocation.

Learning Objectives for the Chaplain Mentor Program include: 

  1. To learn an appreciation for the spiritual aspects of caring for patients.

  2. To examine concepts of “spirituality at the bed-side,” caring for the whole person (cura personalis), and Loyola’s mission to “treat the human spirit.”

  3. To begin to understand the expertise and training of Chaplains and build a foundation for future professional relationships.

  4. To gain knowledge and understanding of the role of Chaplains on a health care team, to learn the value of their contributions, and to identify the resources offered by Spiritual Care.

  5. To recognize how the beliefs, values, and faith commitments of a patient – as well as the student – are resources when encountering illness, suffering, and death, and how a patient’s cultural or religious identities impact care.

  6. To improve listening skills: the abilities to identify and practice empathic listening and transfer to subsequent interactions.

  7. To reflect on the importance of strong communication skills in establishing a positive doctor-patient relationship.

  8. To nurture inspiration, motivation, and enthusiasm for a career in medicine.

What some students have said about the Chaplain Mentor Program 

Not only was it my first time visiting each of these units here at Loyola, but I was able to do so with a tenured professional who just so happens to have wonderful connections with staff all over the campus. From janitorial workers to physicians, my chaplain had a connection with each and every person she encountered and spread joy everywhere she went. This is a trait I greatly admire about her, and certainly something I hope to practice throughout my career as a doctor. 

Shadowing my Chaplain mentor was an educational and inspiring experience. He taught me the importance of respecting and embracing everyone, regardless of perceived or real cultural barriers, and reinforced the significance of cultural sensitivity in patient care. He showed me that there is always an opportunity to provide compassionate care. While it may not be a medical intervention, simply consoling and encouraging people has big impact on the short-term and long-term resolution of a clinical experience for patients and family members. 

As someone who considers herself fairly spiritual and Hindu, I wasn’t sure what to expect out of the chaplain shadowing experience. I thought I wouldn’t be able to fully relate to the experience, although it would be beneficial to observe. It was really valuable for me to talk to Chaplain about her experiences praying with people from all different religious and spiritual backgrounds, and even more valuable to be a part of some of the praying that day. These moments of praying for calmness and optimism and strength felt universal; it gave me my own sense of belonging in the medical field, as I started to believe more in my ability to connect with all the unique patients that I encounter. 

I am grateful for the Chaplain shadowing experience. Not only do I have a better appreciation and understanding of what Chaplains do, but I also learned exactly why it is so important that we, as future physicians, ask questions about our patient’s spirituality. While we did run into some patients who were more private and preferred not to talk about themselves, most patients were more than willing to open up and share their life story or concerns. It seemed like many patients were just looking for someone to talk to, someone who cared, and someone who showed an interest in them and their story. By taking the time to find out this information about our patients, we will only become better physicians who truly treat the human spirit. 


From "Hearts, Exposed – A Medical Student’s Reflection on Witnessing Their First Patient Death" by Erik Carlson on Reflective MedEd:

“Hospital’s on lockdown.”

The security guard didn’t even throw us a backward glance as he shouted the news over his shoulder before continuing on his brisk jog around the floor. I turned to the chaplain I was shadowing that Friday afternoon. A Dominican sister from the Dominican Republic, she called herself a “Double Dominican.”

“Why is the hospital on lockdown?” I asked, trepidation coloring my voice gray.

“That’s hospital procedure whenever they bring in a gunshot victim. Would you like to go? They’ll need a chaplain, so I’ll be going.”

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