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A Hospital Chaplain's Ministry During The Pandemic

Hospital chaplain Edwin Alicea. Image: AdventHealth.
Hospital chaplain Edwin Alicea. Image: AdventHealth.

Edwin Alicea has a simple belief as a hospital chaplain: No one should die alone. That isn’t easy when hospitals are putting restrictions in place to stop the spread of COVID-19. 

90.7 Health Reporter Abe Aboraya spoke with Alicea, the director of mission and ministry at AdventHealth Orlando.

Alicea says isolating patients is emotionally tough, not just on patients, their family and friends, but also the doctors, nurses and front line medical staff.

"It is hard to see them crying, especially when they see patients dying alone," says Alicea.

"You know, our ICUs, families stay there. Families sleep there, unless there's an airborne situation. They sleep there so we are used to seeing them holding hands, not to be alone."

Alicea says the hospital organized chaplains and social workers into teams at the start of the pandemic to be on the lookout for signs of emotional trauma in the medical staff.

"A couple of the chaplains, [there] are three of us, we go into the unit, and we check on them. And I want them to know that I'm checking on them and I tell them, I'm checking on you. How are you today?"

Alicea says the physical distancing is difficult for the chaplains too.

"Normally, even if the family chooses not to be in the room, we're in the room. We believe in no one dying alone. And we are still trying to practice during this time. It may be with a nurse or two the room. It's hard. I respect it. But it's difficult. It's difficult."