OVMC Volunteer Chaplains Have Long History

WHEELING — A tradition of ministering to patients that began 109 years ago continues today at Ohio Valley Medical Center where 14 volunteer chaplains and five eucharistic ministers serve patients.

Included are representatives of Presbyterian, Lutheran, Catholic, Methodist and other denominations.

Each Protestant chaplain volunteers for one week at a time to make visits to in-patients who do not have a church affiliation. Patients who express an interest in a visit get an opportunity to chat with a chaplain and receive comfort and prayer.

If patients have any spiritual needs, chaplains are willing to aid them with these needs. The chaplains are trained to provide general spiritual care and do not place any focus on their home church during their visits. They also carry a beeper so that in the event of a sudden serious emergency, they can be called to provide added comfort to families who request a chaplain.

Patients who have church affiliations are often visited by their own ministers. The Catholic chaplains are on call one week at a time in the event a patient or family requests a visit from a priest. The volunteer eucharistic mininsters offer communion to Catholic patients two days a week.

The Rev. William Boyer, committee co-chair, serves patients in the hospital’s Hillcrest and Robert C. Byrd Behvavioral Health units.

Helping to make things run smoothly are Vickie Grandstaff, pastoral care coordinator, and the Rev. Tim Wilt, chair of the committee.

The volunteer chaplains meet monthly for lunch to discuss various topics and receive training in subjects such as infection control, safety and other pertinent topics.

Dan Dunmyer, CEO at OVMC, met with the group recently to thank the volunteer for their long history of service to the hospital.

Wilt said, “Our volunteer chaplains are committed to continuing the long tradition that OVMC has of providing spiritual care to our patients and are thrilled that Mr. Dunmyer is supportive of our efforts. We are looking to add new members to the committee and invite any interested clergy member to contact us if interested in joining our group.”

In 1909, the board of directors of City Hospital, which was the forerunner to OVMC, stated that “regular spiritual ministration for the benefits of the patients of the hospital be put into place.” At that time, volunteer ministers would serve for one month and be responsible to visit patients at least once a week and be ready for emergencies.

In 1976, Catholic priests and Protestant ministers joined with hospital administration at OVMC to form a pastoral care department. A pastoral care director and secretary were hired to organize and direct the volunteer chaplain committee.

For more information on the volunteer chaplain program, call Grandstaff at 304-234-8192.