Like most hospitals, Avera St. Luke's does it's part to train the next generation of health care professionals. But unlike most hospitals, St. Luke's goes a step further, by also training chaplains to help give the utmost care to their patients.
"It's part of our mission and we make an effort to be able to reach out to people and it seems like this is uniquely different about the history of our hospital and history of the kind of care that we provide." Said Reverend Gary Compton, director of the Avera St. Luke's Chaplaincy Department.
One of the students is Pastor Kerry Ascher who has led a congregation in Aberdeen for 35 years. Even with his wealth of experience, he still had plenty to learn.
"I enjoyed it because as a parish pastor I see my parishioners when they come to the hospital, I pray with them and visit with them, and spend time with them, but I know them quite well. But learning to be a chaplain I walk into a room where I'm quite unknown." Said Pastor Ascher.
It's a hands on learning experience full of challenges. Whether it be a terminal cancer patient or a sick child.
"Children are hard on me, having to walk into a children's room and have a child crying and hurting or to have a mother crying that's really difficult. she's facing some difficult things so pediatrics is quite difficult for me." Said Pastor Ascher
A person's faith alone can be a difficult subject to approach. Not every patient shares the same beliefs, but sometimes all they need is a shoulder to cry on, or someone to just listen.
"Many times they're coping and their sense of hope is very important and their health and well-being and when you come in and offer prayer and encouragement or just your presence it lifts their spirits and it gives them the desire to get better." Said Reverend Compton.
Reverend Compton says the program helps make pastors better by teaching them to understand the patient as well as themselves.
"They go back into their churches and communities and are able to do more in depth communication and support of people with difficulties in their life." Said Reverend Compton.
The marvels of modern medicine are making it easier for doctors to treat a broken body. But it's chaplains like Pastor Ascher, that help treat a broken spirit.
"Faith and Medicine work right together. We believe that doctors do all they can we also believe in our faith that the Lord takes care of us and helps as well. I believe that Jesus Christ is our great physician, so with his enablement, we go to him in prayer, we believe in him, but also the doctors we work with them and encourage them side-by-side it's been great to be teamed together." Said Pastor Ascher.
It's faith based care that sets the Avera Health System apart and it's the Clinical Pastoral Education that helps ensure that level of care will continue well into the future.
The chaplains at Avera St. Luke's are available 24 hours-a-day to provide spiritual support for patients, families and staff in times of crisis, death or personal need. For more information about the chaplaincy department just call 877-AT-AVERA or click here.