‘We are humans trying to be humans to other humans’ – Pandemic highlighting the need for pastoral care


RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – They’re called heroes. However, who do heroes go to when things, like the pandemic, become too much.

“The folks I work with are some of the best health care providers in the world. They are highly professional. So, they know how to compartmentalize, but sometimes just knowing somebody is listening and they care is enough,” Rev. Gyasi Patterson said.

Patterson is the Director of Pastoral Care at UNC Rex Hospital in Raleigh.

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“Of course, we have seen an increase in the patient population. With all the changes with visitation and mask wearing and vaccinations and things like that, really what we are experiencing is compassion fatigue in our staff,” he explained.

In short, burnout.

Enter the assistance of pastoral care. The program consists of people of faith that tend to the spiritual needs of patients, families, and staff from all traditions.

“You don’t say much. You listen. You let them know that you hear them,” Patterson said.

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Patterson said the need doesn’t for pastoral care for staff doesn’t outweigh the need for it for patients.

“I would say now that health care providers and frontline workers are getting more attention. It’s just getting recognized,” he said.

According to a study by Vivian Health, over the course of the pandemic, 39 percent of nurses shared that they sought extra support on their own for their mental health.

WakeMed posted on Facebook that its recent clinical pastoral education class more than doubled the number of patients and staff it supported.

“So, we just try to help them understand that, ‘Hey, we are humans trying to be humans to other humans,’ and that’s OK,” Patterson said.

The Association of Clinical Pastoral Education, Inc. lists the hospital in central North Carolina that offer the program.

You do have to meet certain criteria to become a part of it. Click here for more information on UNC Health’s pastoral care services.

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