With 30 years of experience serving as both a chaplain as well as a pastor, Rev. Ken Waddell is very familiar with the responsibilities of a minister.
“Not only do clergy preach, teach, pray, lead ministry programs and activities,” Waddell says, “pastors also must devote considerable time and energy to caring for members of their congregation.”
As the full-time chaplain for Hamilton Medical Center (HMC), Waddell also understands the unique challenges involved with providing ministry within a healthcare setting. An important part of his chaplaincy, Waddell explains, includes the extension of compassion and support in times of unexpected medical events.
Waddell’s pastoral care role at HMC gives him unique training and experience in helping clergy to become more effective pastoral care providers, whether they serve in congregations, hospitals, hospices or other settings. He has been providing core training for clergy and other clinicians as they become chaplain interns through the Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE) program hosted at HMC.
CPE training develops the awareness of and respect for many different faith traditions, personalities and manifestations of how spiritual beliefs and sense of well-being intersect. Interns grow in their interpersonal relationships and learn how to respond with best practices as a result of their advanced training.
“The disruption of one’s physical well-being is often accompanied by emotional, psychological and spiritual distress,” he says. Many hospitals across the country now recognize the importance of tending to the spiritual needs of their patients in the healing process.
“Many people are very private when it comes to reflecting on how their spiritual distress affects their reaction to a serious illness,” Waddell says. He attributes the additional training he received to become a chaplain as deepening his insight for ministering within a healthcare facility.
“Chaplains are trained to serve people from all walks of life, from all religious belief systems and denominations,” Waddell says. “Their training allows them to provide support to patients and their families in an unfamiliar environment during very vulnerable moments in their lives. Often, during a health crisis, people are more in need of supportive listening, emotional support and assistance with creating a context, something different from a sermon or the type of support they receive from other members of their congregation.”
Waddell’s experience in both the sanctuary and the surgical waiting room motivated him to become a diplomate through the College of Pastoral Supervision and Psychotherapy (CPSP) and to advocate for the partnership between LaFayette Presbyterian Church and Hamilton Medical Center. As an internationally recognized accrediting organization, CPSP offers advanced training units that can lead to becoming a credentialed chaplain.
Initially funded by LaFayette Presbyterian Church and now supported through Hamilton Medical Center, the CPE training program that Waddell envisioned for northwest Georgia has come to fruition. And, as he is discovering, this training is both desired and appreciated in Whitfield County, as well as surrounding communities.
“Clergy from more than 15 different faith groups have participated in CPE, including those from local congregations and from as far away as California and Texas,” Waddell says. About 75 percent of the chaplain interns who participate in the CPE training at HMC are already endorsed clergy, serving congregations. Other candidates are graduate theological seminary students, some of whom are second-career or bi-vocational. “Their previous education and formal ministry experience serves to enrich their chaplaincy training experience,” Waddell adds.
For HMC, the partnership with LaFayette Presbyterian Church has provided the opportunity to integrate an innovative training program that utilizes the time and talents of each chaplain-in-training to bring comfort and support to patients and their families. In turn, Hamilton also contributes to the CPE program by providing a multidisciplinary oversight committee, known as the Professional Advisory Committee (PAC).
“The purpose of the PAC is to advise and assist Ken with the development and coordination of training and to ensure that our CPE units comply with CPSP standards,” explains Jeff Heffelfinger, oncology service line administrator for Hamilton Cancer Institute, who also facilitates the PAC. “This is an innovative program that brings inherent value to our medical team and assists us in meeting the needs of our patients and their families. The members of our PAC represent a cross section of disciplines in the medical field, each lending their unique perspective and insuring that we are meeting the biomedical needs of our patients and also supporting their spiritual, emotional and psychological health as well.”
According to Sandy McKenzie, chief operating officer for HMC, the CPE program supplements the excellent patient care that is already provided at HMC. “It highlights our ability to form partnerships and bring exemplary training programs to our facility. CPE reflects our commitment to implementing progressive programs that serve the needs of our patients and their loved ones.”