Matthew was just a kid, living in Italy with his family, when his parents told him they were taking a trip back to the States to visit his grandmother, who was in the hospital. He was not expecting to return to the USA so soon, but he was glad that his grandma was in a place where people got well. His belief in the purpose of hospitals was shat-tered, and he was personally stunned when his grandma died. This was his introduc-tion to death. Next he learned something about grief, as he watched his mother cry dur-ing the weeks that followed. Years later, as a young adult in college, Matthew cultivat-ed the gift of empathy as he reflected on his childhood experience with dying and grieving. He went on to study theology and social work, and eventually settled on be-coming a chaplain. These are weighty subjects, but folks who know him experience him as playful. This trait will serve him well since he hopes to provide spiritual care in a children’s hospital someday. “Kids are more fun and easier to talk to!” he claims. The same can be said of Matthew.
Matthew is a Resident in St. Mark’s Spiritual Care program.
St. Mark’s Hospital Chaplain Saundra Shanti wanted to connect patients to their caregivers and employees to each other. That’s why she created the Healing Hands portrait series, featuring black and white photographs and stories of St. Mark’s employees at all levels.
“Our patients and families who go in and out know that this is a nurse, and this is a housekeeper, but they don’t know them as people,” Saundra said. “I wanted to humanize our healthcare community to one another and to our families and patients.”
Each photo is accompanied by a story; some biographical, others are anecdotes of experiences that led employees to become caregivers and healthcare professionals. Twelve portraits are currently displayed throughout the hospital, but a total of 36 photos will be rotated throughout the exhibit for the next two months.
By highlighting personal, inspiring and real stories about the staff who will be caring for patients during what can often be an emotional time, the exhibit builds a sense of community. Patients and families will be able to view caregivers as real people with real stories whom they can relate to and connect with, making the hospital experience more personal.
“When we humanize each other, we care more for one another,” Saundra said. “I wanted our employees to be recognized as valuable human beings apart from their professional titles. I wanted to cultivate interaction and respect across our departments and services.”