Chaplains step up to keep Minnesota families connected, support hospital staff during pandemic

Especially on a day like Mother’s Day, it can be so challenging for family members who have a loved one in the hospital who they can’t visit because of COVID-19 restrictions.

But, some families are lucky to rely on hospital staff members at Hennepin County Medical Center who are a guiding light through these tough times.

The two chaplains at the hospital have seen their roles change in some ways since the start of the coronavirus pandemic. Not only are they a source of hope for patients and staff but they’re helping keep families connected during a time when they’re forced to stay apart.

"We’re all dealing with a scary thing here and nobody’s ever experienced it before," said chaplain Karna Anderson.

Anderson says that scary thing, the coronavirus, means families are dealing with the unimaginable challenge of being separated from their loved ones at the hospital.

"This is our iPad and pretty much I walk around with one in my hand or in a patient’s room all day," said Anderson. "We just do a lot of FaceTiming with families and Zoom meetings."

"We communicate with family try to tell them about what’s going on trying to be the connection between really the hospital and the patients," said chaplain Madhat Yoakiem.

Chaplain Yoakiem says, through technology, chaplains have become a lifeline between patients in the hospital and families eager to stay informed and connected.

"I think the old practices, being present, knowing what the family needs, now is trying to figure out how do we really transfer the presence that they can’t experience to the families on the other side," explained Yoakiem.

They say more and more their colleagues, nurses, doctors, and other medical professionals, are relying on them for the same kinds of comforts.

"It’s a really difficult time in just our personal lives too," said Anderson. "We’re separated from our families a lot too and so to be able to be that family away from our family is huge."

"I think faith at this time really, really, I feel like it’s a life jacket for a lot of people right now," said Yoakiem.

A life jacket keeping us afloat as we navigate uncharted waters together.

"I say that’s a connection between us as humans to remind us we will rise together we will fight together and we will go through this together," added Yoakiem.

The chaplains say a lot of times when families are doing video chats with their loved ones, they may be intubated so they can’t actually speak. But they say they work with families to find some way to communicate and keep that connection while they’re forced to be apart.