Healers focus on ways they rejuvenate

'How Do Healers Heal?' display encourages health care workers to talk about self-care

Series: Beyond COVID | Story 8

By Pamela Lannom

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AdventHealth Hinsdale Hospital nurse Juliet Godar finds healing whenever she is close to water. Mark Bondarenko, who works in spiritual care, heals by exploring Yosemite National Park. CEO Adam Maycock heals by spending time with his daughters.

"Whether it's hot or cold, we find time to celebrate what's right and embrace nature. Every time I spend even a few minutes with my daughters, my mental load is lightened and I remember that life is full of small moments of healing," Maycock wrote on a photo that is part of the "How Do Healers Heal?" display in the hospital's lower level.

The project was the brainchild of Sue Kett, who has coordinated the healing arts program at the hospital for the past 10 years.

"We were seriously considering ways we could nurture the souls of our staff, taking into consideration the fact that it's been a really tough couple of years," Kett said, referring to the COVID-19 pandemic and the toll it took on health care workers.

The title came to her mind one night, as did the idea of creating a display featuring photos employees and short descriptions of the varied ways they take care of themselves.

"We've asked people to just pause for a minute and think about their healing practice," Kett said. "If they don't have one, what do they think it should be?"

The displays, which are up at Hinsdale Hospital, the Cancer Institute Hinsdale and three other AdventHealth locations, have been created in partnership with spiritual care services staff.

"They are the boots on the ground," Kett said. "They are actually talking to the staff members and encouraging their participation and then having deeper conversations beyond that."

Hospital employees are very willing to participate in those conversations, chaplain Joyce Diesman said.

"It's been a very intense 2 1/2 years for them," she said. "For them to start thinking about taking care of themselves and to invest in it, I think it's something they are finding valuable.

"Every person is different in what they do - even as diverse at those pictures are downstairs," Diesman added, noting that spending time in nature, with family or in creative endeavors are common themes.

More and more research into the arts and healing is indicating a link between the two, Kett said. One study in the United Kingdom showed participating in arts on a quarterly basis can reduce the risk for developing depression.

"They are all linking arts and healing," she said. "It's not just a good idea, it's a valuable way to look at caring for people, and this was one step."

The display is sparking conversations among staff members about how they seek healing, Diesman said, and giving them an opportunity to share about the things that touch their heart.

"It gives them a respite away from the hospital that they can invest in to heal themselves and come to a better place personally, professionally, emotionally, spiritually," she said.

The intensity of the pandemic caused jovial, light-hearted staff members to "lose a lot of their joy and freshness," she said. But they have found a source of help in each other.

"They have learned to cling to each other, to help each other out," Diesman said. "As a chaplain, I find more and more I would just be a ministry of presence, just listening to them. It helps them recharge a little bit to keep them going."

While AdventHealth, as a faith-based organization, is called to be more intentional about how its employees are cared for, Kett and Diesman agree the same principles would translate into a secular workplace. Showing appreciation - as the community did in a number of ways for hospital workers during the pandemic - and saying "thank you" can make a real difference.

"They know they are being thanked and being appreciated and that's really all they want," Diesman said. "They don't want to be called heroes. They're doing what they love. It's just been really, really hard for them. They just want to do what they love and help people."

While there is no simple fix for serious mental illness, the exhibit reminds people there are steps they can take to help ease loneliness, anxiety and mild depression. And it is just the beginning of an ongoing initiative around self-care, Kett said.

"We feel like these are opportunities for us to start this conversation, and we'll see where it takes us," she said.

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Pamela Lannom is editor of The Hinsdalean