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Rev. Geoff Hatley leads a prayer session with employees at Madison Hospital during the COVID-19 pandemic. CONTRIBUTED

Hatley offers source of comfort to Madison Hospital employees, patients

MADISON – Since Madison Hospital opened in February 2012, Rev. Geoffrey ‘Geoff’ Kent Hatley has served as a volunteer chaplain at Madison Hospital. He continues to minister to needs during the pandemic.

Hatley serves as head pastor at St. Andrews Anglican Church in Madison. “I was asked to recruit other area pastors to lead staff devotionals and prayer times for the daytime and evening shifts seven days a week during the COVID-19 crisis. I personally lead two different devotional/prayer times every week, one Friday morning and one on Sunday evening,” Hatley said.

“Geoff and several others have done twice-a-day prayers on campus for the employees,” Madison Hospital President Mary Lynne Wright said.

All chaplains are on call during assigned days to deal with pastoral needs of staff or patients. Their ministry ranges from counseling, encouragement, prayer with sick or procedure-bound patients and end-of-life care.

 

Hatley and others who volunteered are visiting COVID-19 patients in their rooms. “It can be discouraging and scary in an isolation room. For many in this situation, spiritual care is a tremendous need and comfort,” Hatley said.

Hatley worked with one COVID-19 patient who was hospitalized for 30-plus days. “She had stopped speaking to the staff. She was depressed and in the fetal position,” he said. “She nodded when I asked if she wanted me to pray for her. She grabbed my hand tightly. By the end, her eyes were opened wide, and she was responsive. She asked me to come again.”

The patient began speaking with the staff has been in much better spirits. Her health has steadily improved.

Hatley remembers another patient, 90 years old, who was hospitalized for 30 days. “She’s a fighter. The staff had a birthday party for her with her daughter and great-granddaughter. The patient has finally been cleared to leave the hospital,” Hatley said.

Like most people, Hatley was anxious about contracting the virus. “However, clergy have been doing this kind of thing for thousands of years, just like doctors and nurses. I knew what I was signing up for when I became a pastor. You accept the risk and move forward prayerfully.”

“Chaplain calls rarely come when it’s convenient. We’re not always told how serious the pastoral situation is … just that we’re needed. I’ve learned the hard way arriving a few minutes after a patient has passed away that I have to hustle,” he said. “However, COVID-19 involved more understanding about difficult situations.”

Hatley doesn’t regret added work with mini-sermons for the hospital while continuing congregational care. “We all pray on them, think about them, and practice them. The extra work is worth it,” he said.

“Our hospital staff is doing really important work. We know they need spiritual care. All pastors consider it an honor to encourage the staff in any way,” Hatley said.

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