The Atlanta VA Medical Center’s (AVAMC) Chaplaincy Service is a vital component of our Healthcare services and provides a full range of spiritual care and support for the Veteran patients of our hospital. The Chaplains represent a variety of faith groups including a Roman Catholic Priest, a Muslim Imam, and a Rabbi to support Jewish patients. The Chaplains administer the sacraments and spiritual/religious rites to patients upon request, offer comfort and support to patients, family members and staff. Chaplains are available 24 hours, seven (7) days a week to assist and support patients in accessing their unique spiritual resources as they face the challenges of illness. The Chaplains provide spiritual care, support and assessments throughout the medical center and each medical and surgical unit has a chaplain assigned to their area. In the evenings and on weekends a Chaplain is always on duty either in house or available by pager. Each of our Medical Center Chaplains has specialized training and possess special sensitivity in helping people cope with health care related concerns or issues. Our chaplains respond to requests for prayer, religious rites or materials and are with family members and patients when they are faced with ethical dilemmas, moral or spiritual crisis.
The AVAMC Chaplains respond to code 99’s (cardiac arrest, etc.) anywhere in the Medical Center along with the medical staff and are members of most of the Interdisciplinary teams (IDTs) throughout the hospital. On each Sunday the chaplains lead a general protestant worship service in the Chapel at 10:00 AM that is broadcast (live) on closed circuit TV channel 50. Also, they lead a Sunday worship service on the fourth floor of Psychiatry for the patients there at 12:30 PM. Then the Chaplains have a 1:30 PM Sunday worship service at the Community Living Center (CLC) for the nursing home residents. Each Friday an Imam (Dr. Mohiuddin) leads the Islamic Juma prayers in the Chapel at 1:30PM. On every Monday the Roman Catholic Priest leads a Mass in the chapel at 11:30 AM that is broadcast throughout the Medical Center on channel 50. Following Mass each Monday Father McCormick and two Lay Eucharistic ministers (Tom Badger and Robert Hartle) visit Catholic Patients offering communion and other ministrations. Additionally, a Rabbi (Steven Lindenblatt) is on staff on Fridays to visit with Jewish patients and all of others in need of spiritual care and support.
The Chaplaincy service offers a wide variety of services to the veterans and family which includes a 24 hour telephone prayer service (Dial-A-Prayer), pre-surgery pastoral visitations, and special services such as; Ash Wednesday Services, Quarterly Memorial Services, Blessings of Hands Service, Good Friday, Palm Sunday, Easter Services, Annual Spiritual Care Grand Rounds, and many others. Chaplains can also be called upon to assist in helping family members receive housing at the Hospitality House.
Every Tuesday and Wednesday morning Staff Chaplain Westfall leads the Psychological Rehabilitation and Recovery Center (PRRC) Spirituality Group. The group is designed to provide connection with the Holy and comfort and meet the spiritual needs of veterans coming from various religious backgrounds. The Spirituality Group offers veterans an opportunity to express their faith and to access the resources of their spirituality for comfort, forgiveness, reassurance and rekindling of hope. The AVAMC Chaplains lead or co-facilitate over ten (10) groups weekly with a spiritual component/emphasis (e.g., TBI, PTSD, Women’s Wellness, Telehealth, etc.).
Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE)
The Atlanta VA Chaplain Services is proud to offer a first class Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE) program, accredited by the Association for Clinical Pastoral Education, Inc (ACPE). The mission of ACPE is to advance experience-based theological education for seminarians, clergy, and laypersons of diverse cultures, ethnic groups and faith traditions. The vision of CPE at the Atlanta VA is in compliance with the standards and policies of ACPE.
Chaplain Jim Shumake, Chief of Chaplain Services and ACPE Supervisor, supervises CPE students as well as oversees the Chaplain Services Department. Chaplain Clay Fouse, Associate ACPE Supervisor, is the Coordinator for CPE, organizing and maintaining accreditation standards, creating curriculum, recruiting top notch students, leading educational elements, and supervising CPE students. Teamed together, Chaplain Shumake and Chaplain Fouse supervise between twelve to sixteen CPE students per year.
The Atlanta VA Chaplain Services’ CPE Program is one of a few VA CPE Programs that offers all levels of CPE training, including Internships, Residencies, and a Supervisory Education Student (SES) placement. At the Atlanta VA, CPE students are assigned to clinical unit(s) and are integrated into all areas of the Medical Center. They have opportunities to have one on one pastoral encounters with veterans, participate in spirituality support groups, lead worship, facilitate religious/spiritual rituals, respond to crisis situations, and support staff chaplains on pastoral care projects. CPE students bring energy and their unique gifts that support the mission of the Atlanta VAMC, which is to provide timely and compassionate, “Patient Centered Care… Second to None…One Veteran at a Time.”
This is a brief overview of the ministry provided by the AVAMC Chaplaincy Service. N.B., Carmen Vazquez (Program Support Assistant) and Bobby Doss (Program Support Clerk) are integral to the accomplishment of the mission of the service. They serve a coordinating and supportive role in assisting the Chaplains in their work/ministry. Chaplaincy service is proud that the majority of the staff are military veterans or current members of the reserves. Please support the efforts of our Chaplains. If you would like more information please contact us at extension: 6870.