March 23, 2017

Volunteers Bring Prayer Comfort to Surgical Patients in US Adventist Hospital

C. J. Anderson, Adventist Medical Center Portland

Prayer with patients is not a new concept in Seventh-day Adventist healthcare institutions. Hospital chaplains regularly pray with patients during their rounds. For surgery patients, however, particularly those having outpatient procedures, the window of opportunity is small, making it difficult for a chaplain to reach every patient before their scheduled procedure.

Trying to fill this gap, Adventist Medical Center Portland, a 302-bed Adventist healthcare institution in the State of Oregon, in northwest United States, decided to look for extra help.

“We wanted to expand our reach,” said hospital chaplain Marshal George. “Our team recognized an opportunity to involve and train volunteers to better serve our patients.”

“When we walk into a patient’s room, it’s not our agenda. It’s theirs.”

From that initial discussion, the institution has grown a dedicated team of volunteers who visit surgery patients and offer to pray with them before their procedure. In addition to prayer, these visits help ease the loneliness and uncertainty patients may be feeling as they wait. These volunteers know that experience well.

“I have a lot of faith, but when I had my own surgery I still got nervous,” said Lillian Shannon, one of the spiritual care volunteers. “I love being there to provide a little peace and to help patients find their comfort zone.”

Every Tuesday, Shannon visits patients with David Tupper, another volunteer, who also brings his own surgery and faith experiences to the job.

“I love being involved with this program,” Tupper said. “We get to witness how the nurses and clinical staff care for patients and are a part of that process.”

Lilian Shannon and David Tupper share a prayerful moment before meeting with a surgery patient. [Photo:]

Tupper and Shannon were prepared for this opportunity though training from the spiritual care team, and, like all volunteers in the program, they receive ongoing mentoring.

“We’re constantly coached on how to listen and support what the patient needs in that moment,” said Sandi Dykes, volunteer and program coordinator. “When we walk into a patient’s room, it’s not our agenda. It’s theirs.”

This presence, listening ear and voice of comfort are welcomed by Adventist Health patients. The spiritual care volunteers report they are rarely turned down when they ask to pray with a patient.

“In the rare instance where a patient says no, they usually want the volunteers to pray for their surgeon and care team,” they said.

An original version of the story was published in