11 April 2007

What I have written...

and published I have linked on my web site.

Now you can read the articles that I published in Pastoral Life here.

Happy reading!


  1. Thanks for sharing!

    As someone who works in a Catholic hospital, I'm curious about your article, "Following the Baptist through the Hospital," particularly the first half where you talk about hospital design. I'm unsure what you're advocating; if "hospitals are uncomfortable places for anybody to be in," shouldn't we design them in such a way to minimize discomfort? I'm not saying hospitals should pretend to be hotels (even though many for-profits are very explicitly moving that way), but we can at least be attuned to how environmental factors affect physical and spiritual healing and design our spaces accordingly. Can't a building be both beautiful and serious (I would think that many of our cathedrals would answer that questions)?

    I'm also not sure why you criticize the size of hospitals. I see this as due to a) the increased number of treatable illnesses, resulting in more people being treated in hospital settings; b) the fact that there is more bulky equipment in modern hospitals, necessitating more room (especially if it has to be moved around); and c) the move towards private rooms, which have been proven to reduce medication errors, reduce the need for pain medications, and grant greater privacy (which is a benefit when dealing with patients' spiritual issues -- imagine trying to administer Reconciliation with a thin curtain separating patients!).

    As I've seen it, these elements don't replace but enhance the physical and spiritual care we provide to patients.

    [Also, in the interest of full disclosure, I should have mentioned in my comment on "Parenting classes" that this is Jonathan Sullivan (QU, 2000). Hope all is well!]

  2. Yes, Jonathan, you should have mentioned it before! It's good to hear from you! Welcome aboard! I hope all is well!

    Now, to your comments.

    I do think hospitals should be designed to give some comfort to patients, but not in such a way as to deny the seriousness of the situation. From my time in hospitals I have not found them comfortable places. They are stark, bland, white... institutional, really (like a lot of our churches built over the last several decades). Buildings most certainly can be both beautiful and serious, but I think most hospitals forget the beautiful aspect.

    I didn't find this a comfortable or consoling environment in times in and out of the hospital. Nor do I find it consoling doing hospital chaplaincy when I wrote the article.

    The growing size of hospitals can be a blessing and a curse. Many of them today keep adding on and on and on and feel more like mazes to be navigated than places to be nursed back to health. I would agree that great privacy is a great blessing and shouldn't be removed at all. But at the same, the hallways could often be made to look just a bit more welcoming and less corridor-like. This past summer, I was in a hospital and I had to walk around for ten minutes before I even began to get close to finding the patient I was looking for. This is what I want to avoid.

    I hope that makes sense.

  3. That does makes sense. And I certainly didn't mean to imply that all hospitals do a good job of making their buildings welcoming. Maybe the system I work for (Trinity Health) just does a better job than others. Fortunately, there does seem to be a movement in healthcare to make facilities more conducive to physical, emotional and spiritual healing. I recently sat in on a presentation by the VP for mission at St. Francis Medical Center in Richmond, VA (http://www.bonsecours.com/sfmc), on the renovations they completed at their facility, implementing a "healing environment" plan and emphasizing their Catholic heritage through artwork, etc.

    On the size of hospitals, I'm not sure there is a lot that can be done. One of the things I've become acutely aware of since entering healthcare is just how financially challenged most (and especially not-for profit) hospitals are. While it would be ideal to create more smaller facilities, the truth is that the added costs of overhead and administration makes such an arrangement unfeasible, to say nothing of the added burden on patients who may be forced to make visits to multiple sites for various tests.

    Although we can certainly do a better job of signage (I don't know how many times a week I'm asked where the chapel is, even though it's right off the main lobby)!