Thursday, March 6, 2014 12:00 AM

Educating more chaplains for Valley hospitals

Hospital chaplains are now being trained in the Central Valley through a collaboration of local hospitals, and faith and education groups seeking to serve the spiritual and emotional needs of patients and their families.

The Rev. Grimaldo Enriquez, (top right) chaplain services supervisor for Community, prays with cousins who sought his support while visiting a relative in the hospital.

“Patients who have their spiritual needs addressed heal quicker, use less pain medications and tend to have shorter hospital stays,” said the Rev. Grimaldo Enriquez, chaplain services supervisor for Community Medical Centers.

Community’s team of 20 volunteers, two interns, two staff chaplains and three per-diem chaplains provides round-the-clock spiritual care to patients and their families.

Valley residents interested in becoming certified hospital or prison chaplains previously have had to travel to Los Angeles or the Bay area to receive training. Now, through Clinical Pastoral Education of Central California, a non-profit program started by Community and its collaborators, that classroom and direct-patient contact is available here in the Valley.

The program is a satellite center of Stanford Hospital and Clinics and is accredited by the Association for Clinical Pastoral Education Inc. “Our program is unique in that it doesn’t just belong to one partner hospital. It’s really a collaborative effort,” Enriquez said.

In June, the program graduated its first class of five, with the future potential to graduate many more to help address the Valley’s growing and spiritually diverse patient needs.

“It’s going to benefit the community tremendously to have people who are trained to provide spiritual care in a multicultural setting – open minded, nonjudgmental and focused on the spiritual needs of the person to whom they are ministering,” Enriquez said.