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Funding Employee Innovation: On-Call Chaplains

Thursday, April 1, 2021

Each year, the Augusta Health Foundation awards grants to support innovative projects, developed by Augusta Health’s employees, for projects designed to improve the quality of health and healthcare for patients and community. An employee—or a group of employees—sees an unfulfilled need and develops the project to meet that need. Applications for funding are reviewed by the Augusta Health Foundation Grants Committee and then awards are approved by the Augusta Health Foundation Board of Directors. Grants are typically limited to $20,000 or less.

These stories demonstrate many creative solutions that Augusta Health employees develop to meet the needs of their patients, and the assistance of the Augusta Health Foundation to implement those solutions.

The On-Call Chaplain Program

Three masked Chaplains stood in front of stained glassIt started with the Monday morning voicemail messages on Chris Mason’s office phone. Every Monday, Mason, the Chaplain Program Coordinator at Augusta Health, would listen to calls that had come in over the weekend from staff or patients who needed a Chaplain. Unfortunately, Mason could only call back and apologize that the need had not been met.

Mason had come from another health system that provided 24/7 spiritual care, and it became his goal to bring that model to Augusta Health. With the support of his Director, Lee Phillips, he developed an On-Call Chaplaincy Program to fund chaplaincy coverage for emergency spiritual care needs during weekend hours.

The program provides for two paid, on-call chaplains that alternate weekend coverage. These are paid positions, and the chaplains have undergone specific training in the classroom and through rounding, in order to be chaplains within a healthcare system. The Augusta Health Foundation fully-funded the first ye Dave Cunningham and Gabe Moya were hired to fill the positions.

“We did get off to a bit of a slow start because of the impact of COVID,” explains Mason, “but recently, we’ve had many more calls over the weekend. Those calls might be from the Emergency Department or our Crossroads unit, but they are also from areas like our patient floors and Palliative Care. A few times, a patient has received a difficult diagnosis late on Friday, so by the time they’ve processed the information and want to talk to a Chaplain, it’s the weekend. One of our On-Call chaplains even arranged a baptism in our Chapel over the weekend for a patient and family who asked for that to be provided. The weekend On-Call chaplains have served in many ways.”

“The Augusta Health Foundation is the reason we’ve been able to get this program started,” adds Mason, “we really appreciate their funding and support.”