Interview with a Female Hospital Chaplain

One of our hopes, through Unlocking Femininity, is that women would learn how to glorify the Lord through their lives, their ministries, and their careers. Sometimes we wonder what our place in ministry can be as we’re trying to live within the Scriptural framework God has designed for us.

Whitney Martin is one of those ladies who has sought the Lord as she felt called to ministry and found a career, as a hospital chaplain, that helps her minister to the hurting and spread the Gospel to those in some of the darkest situations. A graduate from Southwestern Baptist Seminary with a Master of Divinity, Whitney has specifically worked as a hospital chaplain in the neo-natal intensive care unit. As one of my best friends, I’m honored to have her  share about her journey in ministry with the Lord, her struggles and her joys as she’s strived to live out God’s calling in her career.

Diane: I used to have some misconceptions about chaplains that they were all male, all preached, were “pastors” in the military, and performed wedding ceremonies. Thanks to meeting you, all these were completely debunked! Can you explain what a hospital chaplain does and how you perform these functions as a woman obedient to God’s Word?

Whitney: The duties of a chaplain can vary depending on the organization and it may take on different forms. I work specifically within the capacity of a hospital chaplain but the main responsibility of a chaplain is to serve and minister to the patients, their families, and the staff within the hospital.

One of the responsibilities of serving the patients includes visiting the patients on a regular basis during their stay. Many of these patients are facing life-altering decisions. Some are just looking for someone to talk to. They want help answering some of the difficult questions facing them head-on. This provides a unique opportunity for ministry, the opportunity to share the love of Christ and the promises of Scripture. Doctors and nurses walk in and out of their rooms to take information, vitals, and blood but the chaplain has the opportunity to walk into their room and give back to the patient through listening and ministering to their emotional and spiritual needs.

The families of the patients are also walking a hard road. Many times they too are enduring the sleepless nights, unending fears, and difficult questions. While they may not experience the physical pain of the patient, the emotional strain may weigh just as heavy. Rather than enduring the procedures, the family spends countless hours in the waiting room. Depending on the patient’s condition, it’s not unusual for a chaplain to interact more with the family than the patient. In the event of a trauma the chaplain’s only interaction may be with the families. Their hearts are equally in need of the Lord’s comfort.

Three of life’s most significant events include birth, death and salvation. These events have a lasting, significant impact on people as well as the families surrounding them because they reshape their lives. Two of these events, birth and death, occur regularly within hospitals. They provide a chaplain with the unique opportunity to walk alongside people at crucial moments in their lives. These life-altering situations open doors for sharing the Gospel. Because of these things, I believe hospital chaplaincy can be a unique and important ministry.

 

Diane: What has influenced your decision to become a hospital chaplain?

Whitney: I spent some of the most formative years of my life within the hospital setting. My mother was sick for four and half years, which required us to spend countless hours and even holidays in and out of hospitals. Through this process I saw and experienced firsthand the fears and pain that occur in that setting on a daily basis. I remember what it’s like to be a family member sitting in a cold waiting room full of nerves for my loved one. I remember watching countless other families alongside me experience the same thing. The Lord allowed these things to open my heart to the patients and their families who continue to walk this path each day.

However, I never even thought of chaplaincy as an option, much less an area the Lord would want me to serve. I pretty much viewed my options as limited to a few, specific areas including missions, women’s ministry, and children’s ministry. I spent most of my college years trying to force myself into one of those areas. It wasn’t until my senior year of college that a professor encouraged me to simply try a chaplaincy internship with a local hospital. This resulted in the Lord opening my eyes to where He wanted me to serve. I realized I could serve as hospital chaplain using the skills and talents God gave me while still living in obedience to Scripture’s commands for me as a daughter of God.

Diane: What are some challenges you’ve faced in your ministry?

Whitney: One of the greatest challenges I have faced involved the expectations of patients and their families. Not a day would pass when I would walk into a hospital room, introduce myself as the chaplain, and see confused faces looking back at me from the patients, their families, or both. “You’re the chaplain?” they would say to me in disbelief. They would fire questions or comments at me.

“You’re so young!”

“I didn’t know women could be chaplains!”

Early on in my ministry this crippled me; I immediately felt disqualified. After all, I wasn’t so sure I would take a 23-year-old girl walking into my hospital room claiming to be a chaplain seriously.  When I operated under the authority of my insecurities, I realized the hindrances they posed to the possibilities of effective ministry. I came to a point where I placed my security in the Lord and His Word versus holding on to the insecurities that I was allowing to take root. It was only when I surrendered this to the Lord that I began to see the full impact that He was having through this ministry.

All these things remind me of the importance of the chaplain’s ministry and why I have a heart to serve here. Though I have faced challenges the Lord has been incredibly gracious to me and taught me so much through this ministry. I love being able to serve those in some of their most hurting, life-altering moments with the love and Gospel of Christ.

If you have any questions for about chaplaincy, being called as woman to ministry, or anything else you’re curious about, please leave a comment! Whitney would love to answer any questions you might have about chaplaincy or her journey!

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8 thoughts on “Interview with a Female Hospital Chaplain

  1. I would love to know how you handle patients who identify themselves of non-Christian or non-evangelical faiths. Are you required to lead prayers or end of life rituals and how do you handle these situations. Besides overcoming your insecurities, what would you say are your biggest challenges as a female chaplain? Do you have any part in leading the hospital staff in ceremonies or inservices recognizing non-Christian holidays and how do you handle these situations. Thanks!

  2. Those are great questions. Let me preface by saying it depends on what type of hospital you are working for. I was working for a private hospital that was originally started on a Christian foundation. This provided me with complete freedom to serve as a Christian. I definitely had several patients who were from all types of religous and non-religous backgrounds; however, I was by no means required to participate in any type of religous practice that was outside of my belief system. When I have encountered patients or their families asking me to participate in or perform an activity outside my belief system I had the freedom to decline. I ministered to non-Christians within the hospital the same way I would minister to them outside of a hospital, keeping in mind they are experiencing a very sensitive situation. Again, this was within a private hospital setting. These are the types of questions that one should ask upfront before beginning employment with a new organization or hospital. This way there are no surprises.

    As I mentioned earlier, one of the greatest challenges I faced as a female chaplain came from the resistance from the families or patients themselves. This resistance was mainly in the form of surprise that a woman just walked in their room claiming to be the chaplain. I didn’t exactly fit their cookie-cutter view of what a chaplain should look like. To be completely honest, once they got over the inital surprise most people were fine with it. Regardless of their reaction, one must operate with security in the Lord and the truth of His word, rather than operating under fear of man. Hope this helps clarify and answer your question!

  3. Thanks! I’ve worked as an RN for many years now and in many different settings. I can’t say I’ve ever worked for a Christian hospital, though. I also earned my MDiv several years ago and would love to be able to use it along with my years of RN experience. Never thought of chaplaincy, but maybe someday? 🙂

  4. Wondering if you still answer questions here — I have the opposite problem in age, I am older (52) and praying about going back for my masters degree in chaplaincy. You are working my dream job, if you are still currently working at a hospital. How difficult was it to obtain that position?

    Thank you.

  5. Im arlen.. I have a bachelor’s in Religion and for many years I have served in my church. I have the chance to be a chaplain at my local hospital because I meet the minimum requirements to be one.
    I was wondering if you can guide me if this is something you think I will be able to do aa a women and a person? What are things I should know about being a chaplain?

  6. Hi Whitney! My name is Hannah Price, and I am a senior nursing student. I love the Lord and I feel like I am being called into ministry. I recently learned about the role a chaplain plays in a hospital, and I’m interested to know more!.
    Hannah Price

  7. Good Morning Whitney,
    I am interested in becoming a Healthcare Chaplain , I am currently enrolled in a graduate program to obtain a Master’s Degree in Religious Studies. I noticed that you have a Mater’s in Divinity. Just wanted to make sure that I am on the right track with my focus being Master’s in Religious Studies to be able to get a job and serve as a Healthcare Chaplain.

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