Every pastor, every small group leader, every shepherd has to make at least one hospital call. It’s part of what it means to care for people and to care about people.
Here’s a quick guide to help you through those visits.
As you are standing outside that hospital room door, you need to remember that God is already on the inside. It’s not like you have to take Him in your pocket. It’s more like those times when you walk into a brand new audience and you discover your best friend has shown up to surprise you. So before you walk in, ask God what He’s doing in this situation. What conversations has he already started? What questions does he have for you to ask to start the conversation? Is there anything he wants you be aware of?
Knock and walk in. Introduce yourself to anyone you don’t know. Tell the person who you are, even if they seem to be asleep or unconscious. You don’t know how much they can hear. Ask, “How is it going?” and then wait.
While they are answering, pay attention. Your job isn’t to be a doctor, but to be a shepherd. Provide spiritual counsel, NOT medical counsel. Before you rush to offer advice, find out what’s happening. Is the patient awake? Is the family in conversation? Who else is in the room? Do you know everyone? Is there any tension in the room? Is it from you or from the situation? Listen to what people say. Listen for answers to the prayer you just prayed. Be patient if the person you are visiting can’t talk very well. With some head injuries, for example, it takes time to form words. Don’t be quick to fill in words or assume you understand.
Based on what you are hearing from God and others, provide care at a pace that matches what the person can process. Offer your ears. Wait for answers. Offer your eye contact. Look at the patient, not the technology. Offer your presence. Being quiet is often helpful. Offer your prayer. “Is it okay if I pray?” “What would you like me to ask for?” Don’t lie. There is no such thing as minor surgery. Provide Biblical affirmation in keeping with where their questions are. Affirm their questions. Resist scolding their doubts. Remind family members of the importance of rest, food, and getting out of the room.
Ask what kind of follow-up would be helpful (Visit again? Call when they get home? Inform some other person or group?). Verify who you can talk with about the visit and what is permissible to say (and keep your word). Leave the room sooner rather than later.
Wash your hands immediately. Make notes to follow up however you need.
Respect the privacy of what was shared. Don’t make diagnostic statements when you report on the visit. “She’ll be fine. She looks awful.”
WHAT TO ASK GOD
Pray for the peace that passes understanding. Pray for the wisdom that God is willing to give. Pray for healing, with honest understanding of the situation. Pray for discernment for the medical staff.
WHAT NOT TO WORRY ABOUT
Don’t worry about knowing all the answers. Don’t worry about remembering all the Bible verses. Don’t worry about being grossed out. Don’t worry about having to defend God. Don’t worry about crying. Remember that you are a human being visiting with other human beings who need to know that they are known and remembered.
One simple step to having lasting impact.
Want a key role in preventing the spread of infection in hospitals? Sanitize your hands.
Sanitize your hands on the way into a room. That will protect the patient and family from the infections that are present in the rest of the hospital.
Sanitize your hands on the way out of a room. That will protect the rest of the world from the infections present in the patient’s room.
It’s not just because we move from room to room. It’s because our behavior can remind other people to sanitize their hands. It’s because hand sanitizing gives families a way to get involved in care. (“I wish I could do something.” “Every time you walk in the room. Every time you walk out, sanitize your hands.”)
It’s because we care about having the right kind of impact.