Celebrating Our Chaplains: Kathy Lesch

Jewish Hospital

By Kathy Lesch, MA, BCC, Chaplain Lead, Jewish Hospital and Frazier Rehab

Kathy Lesch, MA, BCC
Chaplain Lead, Jewish Hospital and Frazier Rehab
I came to Jewish Hospital and Frazier Rehab in November 2003 as a contract chaplain then and the only chaplain on first shift following my chaplaincy residency training. My hope then was that one day there would be more than one chaplain on first shift. I have been fortunate to grow as a chaplain in my fifteen years at Jewish Hospital and to see the evolution of a chaplain position into a team.

We now have two full-time chaplains, a part-time chaplain, a palliative care chaplain, all of which are board certified chaplains/BCC by national accrediting bodies and four PRN chaplains covering nights, weekend on-call as well as day shift openings. As all departments in the hospital the growth of the chaplaincy team was not instantaneous and has taken forward and backward steps. The foundation of the growth was a great need with chaplains providing statistics and participating in research to substantiate the need.

Chaplains depend on our dedicated volunteers to provide specific faith based supportive care to our patients. Catholic volunteers bring communion and provide outreach to our Catholic patients. Catholic deacons and priests assist us with providing sacramental care to Catholic patients requesting the Sacrament of the Sick, and Penance. Jewish cantors and rabbis visit patients from their community hospitalized and we are fortunate to have Rabbi Nadia Siritisky as our Vice President of Mission and Outreach as well as Rabbi Diane Tracht joining our team as a PRN chaplain. Jehovah Witness volunteers provide visitation to patients listed as part of that community.

Our No One Dies Alone/NODA program was established nine years ago providing compassionate companions to be present with patients that are actively dying without the accompaniment of family or friends at their bedside. NODA evolved into a program solely managed by volunteers. Five volunteer coordinators that are deeply passionate about the cause and the program have been the infrastructure that has kept the NODA program going despite changing times and volunteer numbers. We are presently in the process of rebuilding the number of volunteers for NODA.

Chaplaincy is a second career for me a calling birthed out of my personal experience of caring for both of my parents through terminal illness and the desire to bridge gaps for hospital patients and their families. My family was blessed to have family, friends, and a faith community for a circle of support along with the medical teams involved. For me patient centered care is a circle of holistic care surrounding a patient and family providing information, treatment options, and compassionate interdisciplinary care for their spiritual and emotional needs hand in hand with medical treatment.

Chaplains are part of the interdisciplinary medical team tending to the spirit as integrative care of medical treatment for patients along with their families. Chaplains have the privilege of providing supportive care to staff affirming, encouraging, nurturing, and providing rituals when requested, and being a compassionate presence when a staff members needs someone to listen.

Chaplaincy, spiritual care, is offering hospitality to a stranger by cultivating relationships, standing with someone, bearing witness to suffering, encouraging, celebrating healing, and walking the journey of the transformation of hope with someone. Crossing a threshold of a patient’s hospital room is crossing the threshold of their life, hearing their story and caring for their needs. I give thanks for the privilege and opportunity to be a chaplain and hopefully in some small way provide compassion and care along with our team of chaplains, volunteers, and the entire staff of Jewish Hospital and Frazier Rehab.