Book shares advice from hospital spiritual care volunteers

opentheeyesA book called “Open the Eyes of My Heart” showcases the volunteer spiritual care that takes place within Upstate University Hospital as part of professional chaplaincy provided by the Department of Spiritual Care.

Spiritual care volunteer Walt Wasilewski crafted the book from interviews with 18 spiritual care volunteers. He is a journalist who teaches at Syracuse University’s S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications.

“I felt like it was a 6-month intensive tutorial in the best practices in spiritual care,” he says of the time he spent researching. “I learned so many things, some esoteric, some fairly difficult to ponder, but a lot of practical things: What do you say when this happens? How do you react when that happens?

“It has affected the way I relate to patients,” says Wasilewski. “And the hope is that the book will do the same for people in other places, other hospitals, other settings, where they might read this and be a little bit inspired.”

One story is about a volunteer in her 30s who uses Reiki to connect with patients. Another tells of a woman who began volunteering in her 70s and glowed as she spoke of her days visiting patients.

“Open the Eyes of My Heart” was published by Upstate’s Center for Spiritual Care through a Friend in Deed grant from the Foundation for Upstate Medical University. Imani Shabazz, a summer 2013 Synergy Mercyworks spiritual care intern, also contributed to the book. It sells for $5 through the center.

More than 100 people volunteer through the center, says the Rev. Terry Culbertson, who manages the center. She says the program includes a full spectrum of faith traditions. “Offering spiritual care as a volunteer can add a fulfilling dimension to life. There are so many ways our volunteers offer spiritual care, whether it is through prayer, Reiki, music, a gentle touch or merely just by spending quiet moments with patients.”

Wasilewski was impressed with the volunteers he met during his research. “How knowing and wise these volunteers are about how to prepare a place in time – our place, in this hospital – so that the spirit can do its work.

“The doctors and nurses are always doing their work. The spirit is, as well.”

Listen to an interview about the book

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