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Compassion in the Adventist Bolingbrook Hospital Emergency Room

How one hospital chaplain steps in to care for nurses and doctors in the most emotional, exhausting section of the hospital.

When Chaplain Vicky Syren walks into the emergency room at  everything stops. Then, just as quickly, the hustle and bustle resumes. Everyone goes back to talking on the phones, pushing gurneys and rushing in and out of patient rooms. 

That’s because Syren has become a part of that place and all the hugs and heartbreaks that take place inside. Physicians and nurses may be in charge of the wellbeing of patients, but Syren is in charge of them.

“The emergency room is my favorite place in the world to be,” she said. “I guess I’m an adrenaline junkie. I feel I make a difference here.”

Syren, who is also a chaplain for a the TriState Fire Prevention District in Darien, is part of the Critical Incident Stress Management and Debriefing (CISM) team. By the end of 2012, every chaplain at all five Adventist Midwest Health hospitals will be trained in the same program.

Currently, the team consists of 31 people including chaplains, behavioral health experts, nurses and other staff who went through a three-day training class to be certified. When a crisis strikes, on-call members of the team are brought in to help employees deal with the aftermath of emotions that flood in after stressful cases.

For example, in one week at Adventist Bolingbrook Hospital, three infants died -- two were suspected homicides. A single doctor and many of the same nurses worked on all three cases. Syren knew these were nurses who had young children of their own.

“A lot of what we do is take the ‘emotional temperature’ of a situation,” she said. “I knew this was an emotional situation. When they’re working, these professionals can’t break down and let it all out. But after work, I help them walk through the grieving process. I help them talk about it.”

How the CISM team reacts depends on the crisis and staff involved. Sometimes, they simply stop by to see how an employee is doing. Other times they hold large meetings that can go on for hours. The team is also available to the community should a large-scale emergency occur such as a school shooting or plane crash.

“All of the firefighters, doctors and nurses I work with are all so professional, sometimes we forget they can be very affected by what happens around them,” Syren said. “When everyone leaves, we step in to see how they’re doing. It’s our way of extending the healing ministry of Christ to our employees.”

Jolene Albaugh, Adventist Bolingbrook Hospital’s chief nursing officer, said Syren is there for nurses and other staff who wouldn’t normally ask for help.

“These are caregivers who all day long concentrate on the healing of others,” Albaugh said. “They would never consider asking for help themselves and thanks to Vicky’s team, they don’t have to. Her team shows up without question or judgment.”

Syren has been at Adventist Bolingbrook Hospital since it opened almost five years ago. Before that, she was a chaplain at Adventist Hinsdale Hospital for 11 years. At Bolingbrook, she hardly ever takes off her “chaplain” name badge, because it’s so much a part of who she is. Her desk is covered with papers and photographs and co-workers leave notes on her door, since she’s rarely behind her desk.

Chances are, she’s in emergency room.

Editor's note: This a press release from Adventist Bolingbrook Hospital. 

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