Last week, chaplains at the hospital where I work were informed that we were “essential personnel.” This felt like a hard-fought victory. In the context of an academic medical center, the religious, spiritual, and emotional needs of patients and families often take a back seat to the medical aspects of care and research. It would be an understatement to say that some of us on staff were feeling undervalued.
But the victory of being deemed “essential” is mixed with apprehension under the conditions of pandemic. I’m wary. My spouse is quarantining at home as are many of my friends and colleagues. That seems like the responsible thing to do. In contrast, I will be going to work every day and spending hours in a place where people are seeking treatment for the virus that we’d all rather avoid. It never occurred to me that being a hospital chaplain could be dangerous, but that is now the situation.