Chaplain Ricky Thrasher, state chaplaincy representative for the Georgia Baptist Convention, conducts a session of Operation BALM at Phoebe Northwest on Thursday. The conference was meant to give area ministers and laypersons training on providing spiritual care in a hospital setting. (March 14, 2013)
ALBANY, Ga. -- Recognizing that spiritual care can be critical to a patient's recovery during a hospital stay, the Phoebe Putney Memorial Hospital Spiritual Care Department co-sponsored Operation BALM: A Hospital Ministry Training Conference at Phoebe Northwest on Thursday.
The name of the event was derived from the Balm of Gilead, a healing compound that is referenced in Jeremiah 8:22 in the Bible.
The all-day conference was conducted in collaboration with the Georgia Baptist Convention (GBC). During the conference, ministers and lay persons from Southwest Georgia were able to receive training on topics such as hospital visitation, religious and cultural diversity, grief ministry, crisis ministry in a clinical setting and medical ethics and patient rights.
"The purpose is to reach out to the community ministers to teach them better how to go into the hospital and make a hospital visit," said Kim Smith, spiritual care coordinator at Phoebe. "It is an educational tool for the community.
"The hospital chaplaincy is more widely used. When someone gets into a crisis, they are asking for a chaplain, or for someone. For community pastors, (this is to gain) knowledge that helps you feel more comfortable."
Smith said there were roughly 70 people from throughout the region at Operation BALM, with over half of the attendees from outside of Dougherty County, including as far away as Wilcox and Ben Hill counties. The event was conducted annually through 2008, and had not been done since then until this week.
"Based on the feedback (from this event), we would consider doing it annually (again)," she said.
Chaplain Ricky Thrasher, GBC state chaplaincy representative, conducted the conference's six sessions.
Among the attendees was Father Don Hutchens of St. John's Anglican Church in Americus.
Hutchens said he participated in the conference because of his passion for spiritual care and that, along with physical and mental health care, spiritual care is a vital component in achieving a more comprehensive healing process for patients -- especially if the hospital is a lonely place for them.
"It is paramount that it (spiritual care) be an integral part of the healing process. Chaplains help deal with patients and the families. It can be difficult for the hospital staff (to deal with it on their own). Nurses and doctors give a great deal of themselves, and they need care too.
"(This kind of training) is important because you don't always react well when you are not trained (to handle it)."