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by former  Chaplain Dana Bratton

Medical Links   Spirituality and Health Care

The first "how to do" is to go.  A visit in the hospital is very much appreciated and can be very helpful to a person's recovery and well being.  Pray for a heart of compassion and mercy.  I Peter 3:8 says, "Finally, be ye all of one mind, having compassion one of another, love as brethren, be pitiful, be courteous."

1 Cor. 12:26 And whether one member suffer, all the members suffer with it; or one member be honoured, all the members rejoice with it.

2 Cor. 1:3-4 Blessed be God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort; Who comforteth us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God."

Matthew 25:35-40 Jesus said, "I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me.  Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungered, and fed thee?  Or thirsty, and gave thee drink?  When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? Or naked and clothed thee?  And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, inasmuch as ye have done it unto on of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me."

Ministering to the sick, making calls in the hospital: 

  1. Pray for the patient before you go to visit and offer to pray during the the visit.  You may ask, "what specific things can I pray for, for you?"
  2. Be careful about your appearance, cleanliness, and smell (avoid cologne or perfume).
  3. Check at the volunteers' information desk for the location of the patient and directions.  Be careful to observe visiting hours and all rules of the hospital.  You will be entering the patient's bedroom as a guest, be sensitive to their privacy.  Often there are several patients in a room, be sensitive to them as well.
  4. Always consult the nurses when a patient's curtain is pulled, the door is closed, or there are isolation signs on the door about wearing gown, mask, and gloves, before entering.
  5. If the patient is sleeping, do not wake him.  Patients should not be visited right after surgery.
  6. Enter the room quietly, seriously, but smiling.  Be calm and settled, not rushed.  Look the person in the eyes.
  7. Don't sit on or shake the bed.  Don't touch the IV machine or tubes.
  8. Limit the time of your visit, don't fatigue the patient.  But don't keep looking at your watch.
  9. Many patients will a appreciate a gentle touch or holding the hand, especially during prayer, but don't squeeze the hand with an IV.
  10. Most patients appreciate being given a booklet, if they are able to see it.  If distributing literature, be sure to read it first yourself, and make sure it is acceptable for the patient before giving it.
  11. Express love, and genuine interest in the patient. The patient will generally like to discuss their sickness and other needs, if asked. You should listen, more than speak.  You want to express some empathy but be careful not to share all your "war stories".  Don't belittle the patient's sickness.
  12. The patient my complain about the medical treatment they are receiving, don't undermine the staff's authority or expertise.
  13. You want to encourage the patients, so don't bring bad news about the world.  The patient may want, however, to talk about the news.  Men often enjoy talking about their work.  Women often enjoy talking about their family.
  14. If you don't know the patient's spiritual condition, ask!  But don't argue or theologize.  Don't carry a large Bible.  If the person is unsaved share the Gospel using Scripture and/or your testimony, and a non threatening Gospel tract.
  15. Accept any interruptions of your visit from doctors, staff, or family.  Often there will be opportunities to visit and minister to the family.
  16. Wash your hands after touching the patient.

Some suggestions for comfort and support with a terminal patient:

  1. Be honest in sharing your feelings.  Admit your helplessness and concern.
  2. Don't be shocked by whatever the dying person may say.
  3. Try to anticipate physical needs without being told.
  4. Don't stop being a comforter when the patient accepts his impending death, or when others begin to avoid the patient.
  5. If the person is saved, talk about Heaven and the Lord's presence.  Always have hope, look forward to something.

Questions to ask the terminal patient:

  1. Is your house in order? i.e. bills paid, apologies made, arrangements for the care of the family.
  2. Do you have any funeral arrangements?
  3. Have you written a will?
  4. Are you prepared to meet God?  The person's relationship to Christ is the utmost priority!

For additional help or follow up consult your local hospital chaplain or the HCMA.
  For information on starting a chaplaincy program in your local hospital see


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