Speaking to 19 Army chaplains from Fort Gordon, Dr. Dianne Lewis explained the importance of being a chaplain at the Charlie Norwood VA Medical Center.
“We’re not only here to be heard,” said Lewis, the incoming chief of chaplain services at the Augusta VA. “We’re here to listen. After we listen, it’s our job to provide appropriate care.”
On Thursday, the medical center’s chaplain service provided training to the chaplains at the Uptown VA Hospital. According to Ron Craddock, who is retiring as chief of chaplain services at the Augusta VA, this is the first training session with Fort Gordon chaplains and the VA.
After an overview of VA chaplain services, Fort Gordon personnel toured the Uptown campus while discussing the pastoral education program and spiritual resiliency training.
“When I was hired in 2006, we had two chaplains at the (VA hospital),” Craddock said. “Since then, it’s grown to six staff chaplains and four resident chaplains. I cannot stress enough the importance of providing spiritual assistance to veterans and we’ve built a very strong department here.”
Craddock is retiring this summer, while Lewis will become the VA’s new chief of chaplain services. In 2014, Lewis was named the Augusta area’s resident chaplain of the year.
At the time, Craddock said Lewis was often credited by clinicians involved in the program as being extremely helpful and professional in demonstrating integrity, commitment, advocacy, respect and influence in her work.
“It’s not uncommon for us to be at the bedside of a veteran for more than an hour,” Lewis told the Fort Gordon chaplains. “Many of these veterans are in fear. They’re afraid of hospitals, or in fear of their procedure. And, look, it’s not only about providing comfort to veterans – it’s our job to also provide assistance to families of veterans.”
According to VA chaplain Michael Metcalf, the Uptown VA was approached by the senior leadership of the religious support office at Fort Gordon about doing joint training.
Thursday marked the first session, which focused mainly on providing orientation for the work of the VA chaplaincy.
“The VA puts huge importance on the spiritual care of their patients,” Metcalf said. “Holistic care is so important, and the three aspects of the care are mind, body and spirit. Where we live, most people immediately link spirituality to religion and religion is a huge element of it. But spirituality also speaks to integrity, patriotism, love and relationships.”
Reach Doug Stutsman at (706) 823-3341 or firstname.lastname@example.org