The Pagan Community Isn't Ready to Aid Members In Health Care Facilities

The Pagan Community Isn't Ready to Aid Members In Health Care Facilities March 8, 2011

There are around a million Pagans in the US and only a handful of Pagans who have experience or training for counseling in hospitals or hospice.

As a person with chronic health issues, I’ve been to the emergency room many times. I’m grateful that only once I had to be admitted overnight and that turned out to be a week long stay in a stress unit. While I struggled with my inner turmoil, surrounded by free bibles and unable to go outside, I wished there was a Pagan clergy member or priest/priestess who could have visited me. It got me thinking about what would happen if I ended up in a life threatening situation? Who would be there to help me move on from this life? I’m in a small town of around three thousand people. As far as I know, the closest clergy is a couple of hours away. I haven’t even met them. Even if I knew a Pagan clergy member, would they be allowed to visit me and perform rites?

New US Health and Human Services Department guidelines started in January. Any hospital that accepts Medicare or Medicaid must protect ALL patient’s rights to include anyone they wish on their visitation list. Hospitals may not “restrict, limit, or otherwise deny visitation privileges on the basis of race, color, national origin, religion, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, or disability.”

In the Staff of Asclepius post “Are You Prepared for a Medical Emergency?” I emphasized the importance of having an Advanced Medical Directive and choosing a spiritual advisor. However, does the Pagan community have members who are prepared to advise and console others during a crisis? Our circles large and small have people willing to share ideas and swap books, maybe even dedicate themselves to long term serious teaching. However, there are around a million Pagans in the US and only a handful of Pagans who have experience or training for counseling in hospitals or hospice. There are many coven, grove, or circle members who would show up at any time of day or night to be with a fellow member. But are they prepared to speak with hospital staff, understand regulations, or can they prepare a soul for their final journey or conduct a funeral? This is one of the main reasons we need trained Pagan leadership.

The Pagan Federation in the UK hopes to put together a bank or list of qualified professionals for such a need. Until then, they offer an article and printable leaflet with advice for Pagan ministers and Pagans in health or long term care facilities.

I did an extensive online search for similar resources to assist US Pagans. I found two resources by the Washington-Baltimore Pagan Clergy Association and I applaud their work. Unfortunately, the organization is currently inactive and I’m grateful that someone is keeping the site up. At the site there is a Hospital Chaplaincy Education Slideshow “Pagans & Hospitals: Meeting the Growing Need” and a Psycho-Spiritual Profile for Wicca. Michael Reeder wrote the profile for pagans to give to their personal therapists. Clergy can share the information with professionals on their health care referral list. Michael writes the Pagan Therapy and Counseling for a Pagan World blog. These resources can still be used, especially if they are updated. The slide show needs newer statistics and the community needs a Pagan profile and maybe even profiles for other traditions.

I emailed Cherry Hill Seminary, which offers a masters program for Pagan clergy, about hospital, long term care, and hospice resources and got a quick response from Holli S. Emore, Executive Director. At this time, Cherry Hill doesn’t have a chaplain list but they would like me to put together a brief notice for their newsletter asking for resources. I’m woefully behind in writing that notice.

If any of you know of resources for Pagans in the hospital, long term care, or hospice please post them in the comments. If you know of a list of professional Pagan or Pagan friendly clergy, please share it. Do you have a story to share about needing a Pagan priest or priestess or member of the clergy while hospitalized? Please share it in the comments or email me.

In the mean time, I’ll be writing that notice.

Resources or Articles of Interest:

“Pagan Leadership/Clergy” section in the Patheos online library

Reclaiming Quarterly “The Changing Face of Priestessing” by M. Macha NightMare

Earth Traditions provides spiritual counseling, hospital and prison chaplaincies and training for Pagan Clergy interested in becoming involved in these types of ministries.

Wiccan/Pagan Times “Pagan Clergy: What Qualifications and Credentials Should They Possess?” by Morgan Ravenwood

American Hospital Association “A Patient’s Bill of Rights”
A Patient’s Bill of Rights was first adopted by the American Hospital Association in 1973. This revision was approved by the AHA Board of Trustees on October 21, 1992.

The Nation “The Best Healthcare News You Didn’t Hear This Week” by Nancy Goldstein

“PART 482—CONDITIONS OF PARTICIPATION FOR HOSPITALS“ Changes made to the Medicare and Medicaid conditions of participation for hospitals by the Department of Health and Human Services final rule.pdf

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