Traverse City Record-Eagle

Life

June 7, 2014

Taking care of caretakers one among many callings

TRAVERSE CITY — Sometimes the Munson Medical Center chapel is filled to capacity; other times, just a few folks drift in, if any.

Those slow days — all that preparation and set up for empty chairs — Rev. Kathy Steen questions, “Is this worth it?” but answer is always yes. Hospital workers can’t always attend services, but they are there in spirit, Steen said.

“We’ll meet for 15 or 20 minutes, whatever we have. Pagers are going off and phones are ringing, it’s a busy place and these are busy people,” Steen said of the 4,000 or so employees of Munson Medical Center. “Whatever we do has to be quick.”

Steen leads the hospital’s Department of Spiritual Services. The head chaplain, on any given day, may be called in when a person opts to forgo treatment for comfort measures. Or discontinue life support. Or give birth to a fetal demise. Steen’s parents were both diagnosed with cancer in the same year, and she knows what it’s like to care for ailing parents and do time in hospital chairs and at bedsides.

The former biology teacher-turned ordained United Methodist pastor never imagined herself walking hospital corridors with her worn copy of “Ministry with the Sick,” but she knows it’s where she belongs, she said.

But ministry to the well is also part of her job. The scrubs or white coat-wearing part of her flock often need a lift but are usually less likely to know it. Steen started “Tending the Spirit” a few years ago to provide a little spiritual recharge for Munson Medical Center employees.

“Staff need some relief from the pain and anxiety of their work,” Steen said. She includes herself in the diagnosis. “It allows me to tend my own spirit and be creative in my work.”

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