#Confessionsofawannabechaplain; Abby Pratt and CPE

Published: July 10, 2012

At first glance, my summer CPE internship has been very different from my past summer job in which I have worked as a high ropes facilitator on the campus of my alma mater, William Jewell College. Over the past few summers I have developed a love for leading groups through various challenges as they walk on cables thirty-five to forty feet above the ground. Some of my most memorable moments have been spent comforting and encouraging participants who have become stuck along the way. I am energized by their endurance and perseverance as they work through and overcome their fears. I found grace and love in reaching out to these scared individuals, holding them in my arms, and guiding them until they are able to walk on their own. I miss opportunities like these as well as spending my summer outside on the course. Instead of working back in Kansas City, I am serving as a chaplain intern at Wake Forest Baptist Hospital. My days are filled with patient visits, seminars, and meetings. While I would still trade my pager and badge for a helmet and harness, I am finding similarities between these two jobs.

This past Tuesday was my first twenty-four hour On-Call shift. The first part of the shift is fairly standard, from 8am-5pm the chaplain responsible for answering the On-Call pager and then fielding the calls to the various chaplains according to the patient’s location and needs. After 5pm, and until 8am the next morning the individual is the only chaplain in the hospital and his/her duties consist of responding to all calls. Needless to say I was pretty nervous heading into my first On-Call. After two weeks at the hospital I was just getting the hang of using my pager and navigating between the many buildings. In preparation I read through the On-Call checklist a few times, studied my three hospital maps, practiced paging my fellow interns and, of course, created an “On-Call” playlist. Some important songs include “Call Me, Maybe,” “I Want to Hold Your Hand,” and “Look at Me Now” (e-mail me for the full playlist).

My feelings at the beginning of my shift were a lot like the first time I led a group on the high ropes course. My palms were definitely sweaty, I was constantly quizzing myself on everything I needed to remember, and I strongly questioned if I was really ready for this. As I worked through the day and responded to various calls, I found that my patients were a lot like my stranded participants. They were fearful to step off into the unknown, struggling to get back on the cable after a fall, or truly stuck, hanging below the cable and needing to either be pulled back up or lowered to the ground. In situations when I was not sure how to respond, I reverted back to my experiences as a facilitator. I reached out to my patients, affirming them and offering them a steady hand. Just like when I am on the cables, I knew I could not fully support them or we would both fall. I sought to be a means of helping them become balanced and potentially stable, even if it was only for a little while. Once again, I am amazed and humbled by the courage and tenacity of those who I am serving. Unlike the course, we do not have safety ropes or harnesses. I miss the security and confidence this equipment provided. As the summer progresses, I know I will experience many challenging situations. Just like on the course, I will take one step at a time, support and be supported by my fellow chaplains, and seek not to just reach the end but to fully embrace each challenge along the way in order to provide the best care I can and develop as a minister.

Abby Pratt (pictured at left)
2nd Year