Fairview layoffs impact chaplain staff

Healing is not just physical, but mental, emotional and spiritual as well. It's that principle that guides Carolyn Browender in her work as a chaplain with Fairview.

Earlier this week, Browender was heartbroken to learn she was one of 250 Fairview employees who would be losing their jobs. The news hit especially hard because it came after she weathered the tough years of the COVID-19 pandemic.

"We took those risks to support our patients because we know in those times of crisis and devastation and loss, people need their humanity and their spirituality more than ever," said Browender. 

She says she was shocked to later find out her spiritual health department was being gutted.

"I think the most troubling part is the inhumanity of these cuts," said Browender. 

"I thought I was maybe just one of a couple and then, I learned Friday morning that I was one of 13 chaplains and two of our support staff being cut."

Her last day on the job is Dec. 1. She adds the vast majority of the cuts impact Fairview's University of Minnesota Medical Center in Minneapolis.

Browender says she's deeply concerned about the disproportionate impact this may have on marginalized communities in south Minneapolis, particularly in the East African and Native American populations.

"Being in the hospital can be incredibly isolating, incredibly scary... to have resources like us, like chaplains to provide guidance support and to advocate for those patients... they are losing out, and we are concerned this is going to impact our community's health," Browender said. 

Fairview Health Services sent FOX 9 the following statement regarding the layoffs impacting their chaplain services:

"We’ve made the difficult decision to scale back our onsite chaplain services through Fairview’s Spiritual Health Services team. This decision was made in part due to the changing ways in which our patients, their families and our staff seek spiritual support. Every day, our care teams help patients and families arrange for visits and support by trusted spiritual leaders, based on their personal religious preference and unique cultural needs and we will continue to do so in partnership with our communities. Spiritual support remains an important part of our patients’ and employees’ well-being. We will continue partnering with our region’s diverse community of faith leaders to support those in need now and in the future.  Additionally, our Employee Assistance Program will remain a resource for helping employees connect with the support they may need, including for their spiritual well-being. 

"These programs have served countless patients, families and staff over many years. We are grateful for our staff members who have offered this valuable support, and look forward to deepening our engagement with our communities' diverse faith leaders to support our patients together."