The Ruth M. Rothstein CORE Center is a clinic of the Cook County Health and Hospital system that focuses especially on the prevention and treatment of HIV/AIDS. Project Connect operates as part of the CORE Center, with a specific emphasis on connecting with patients admitted to Stroger Hospital, who have HIV/AIDS as part of their diagnosis (or building upon connections previously made). Since prevention and/or treatment are so vital, this makes great sense for the individuals as well as the healthcare system. Good treatment means better health for the individuals and less expense for the county’s healthcare system.
My own work with Project Connect (two half-days each week) involves taking part in the morning meetings at CORE with Project Coordinators, Caseworkers, Social Workers, Navigators, discussing the inpatients currently at Stroger Hospital who have this type of diagnosis. This usually numbers 12 to 20 patients. I select the ones that seem to me to be good candidates for a visit from a chaplain; sometimes there are referrals from one of the other P.C. staff who recommend I visit someone.
I then proceed to Stroger Hospital to make my visits. I introduce myself as Chaplain Jim, there on behalf of the CORE Center, to say hello and see whether I can be of assistance. Sometimes the patients are clear about not wanting a visit from a chaplain and I of course respect that and wish them well. But many are receptive and appreciative, have thought a lot about spiritual matters, and are glad to have someone to talk with, to affirm their faith, to offer prayer with them, perhaps a segment of Scripture, etc. When religion is part of their experience it is often African American Baptist/Pentecostal, and I am quite comfortable praying accordingly; in any case, the point is to respect whatever resource has helped them, and to try to encourage or build upon that. I make notes on each visit which I share in “chart” format with the Project Coordinators and which they can enter into the patient’s medical record where appropriate.
My input is respected and valued as a team member, and since Stroger does not include professional chaplaincy among its services, what we are able to provide meets a human need that is vital but might well otherwise go unaddressed – where “healthcare meets the human spirit” indeed.