Practicum Students Pour Into Patients at Children’s Center

By Whitney Knight

For the first time, students in MACU’s Practicum in Pastoral Care class are serving at The Children’s Center Rehabilitation Hospital in Bethany, Okla. as part of an eight-week training program.

Every Wednesday and Thursday, students are at the hospital for two-hour sessions with young boys and girls at the pediatric hospital, which offers 24-hour medical care, rehabilitation and special education for children in need.

Sessions include 45 minutes of training on topics ranging from confidentiality, spiritual wellbeing and distress, listening, cultural competency, spirituality and religion, communication and grief care. The rest of the time, students assist in chapels in the units and are assigned patients to visit.

Ministry Professor Rev. Justin Key, who oversees Practicum, said that ministering at a children’s hospital provides students with a unique experience.

“It’s definitely a different kind of dynamic than what our students are accustomed to experiencing with adult patients,” Key said.

“The children are in some kind of long-term recovery process or are dealing with a long-term condition that is fairly intense. It is a challenging situation for our students that goes above and beyond anything most of them have ever experienced.”

The experience has already shaped the lives and hearts of MACU’s student chaplains. Business Administration major Kaitlynn Bloomfield described her time at The Children’s Center so far as a “very special experience.”

“The first week I was at the hospital, the Lord set up my heart to be softened. Every week after, I have seen Jesus through the smiles and laughter that comes from my silly dance moves, or even through the way little babies hold on to my fingers and refuse to let go,” she said. “God is present in every visit and sees every child. He loves them so well, and I hope my presence can be a little part to help show that love.”

Many patients at The Children’s Center are nonverbal. Despite that, Ministry Leadership major Preston Burroughs said that the connections formed between the Practicum class and the student patients transcends the need to speak aloud.

“I think the connection with the kids at The Children’s Center is deeper than it was when I was working at hospitals clinics back home in Missouri,” Burroughs said. “I think a lot of that has to do with the spirit of Jesus Christ being there to connect us, because we are part of one body and the outpouring of love really bridges the communication gap.”

The opportunity for students to learn at and minister to patients at The Children’s Center was made possible thanks to a grant from the Butterfield Memorial Foundation, which helped fund Clinical Pastoral Supervision Training for chaplains at The Children’s Center.

Next spring, MACU will send interns to the hospital for another newly developed program by Butterfield Foundation, called the Eric Baird Spiritual Care Internship, which will be more concentrated in focus.