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On the COVID-19 Front Lines With Chaplains


What is it like being a chaplain on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic? The Cedars-Sinai Newsroom reached out to some of our #HealthcareHeroes to find out. 

COVID-19 Front Lines: Rabbi Jason Weiner

Rabbi Jason Weiner Shares Message of Hope

Rabbi Jason Weiner, BCC, Director of the Spiritual Care Department at Cedars-Sinai, said in a video diary that the chaplains are seeing an increased need to provide care to staff members who are dedicated, but sometimes in need of a spiritual lift. 

In addition to helping patients and their family members, chaplains have been called upon to give prayers and blessings to specific units and departments at the medical center. "What inspires me right now is seeing the dedication, the sense of purpose and the way people are coming together on behalf of people in need," Weiner said.

"This is a time when people are afraid and people are anxious," Weiner said. "And this hospital, Cedars-Sinai, is saying everyone, no matter what, you are welcome here. We will help you, we will give to you, we will embrace you and we will care for you."

COVID-19 Front Lines: The Rev. Peggy Kelley

Christian Chaplain Explains How COVID-19 Has Changed Spiritual Care

Reverend Peggy Kelley, BCC, experiences some of the most tender moments of people's lives. Whether she's blessing a newborn baby, offering words of hope and encouragement for a patient fighting illness or sharing a solemn moment with a family after the death of a loved one, she's there, up close and personal, offering whatever is needed for her patients' spirits. It's an inherently intimate calling that, these days, comes with an additional challenge: caring for patients while practicing social distancing.

"I'm keeping the distance with the mask on," Kelley said in a video diary. "But I am trying to make eye contact and letting them hear my voice and being as close as I can with being safe."

Kelley, who is the Lead Christian Chaplain at Cedars-Sinai, is currently working with patients who do not have COVID-19, but she and the other chaplains at Cedars-Sinai are adhering to guidelines issued by public health authorities. That means she's caring for patients from a distance and wearing a mask at all times.

"And when you think about that, I didn't realize this until it happened, but it's really intimate to just have eyeballs," Kelley said. "You know, you're just looking in somebody's eyes. Really looking in people's eyes."

Kelley said she's inspired by patients who often choose to pray for others, including other patients, healthcare providers and those who are isolated or feeling lonely during this time.

"I just feel so inspired by the grace and the hope that is around and when I go into rooms and they want to pray for everybody," Kelley said.

COVID-19 Front Lines: Deacon George Baghdassarian

Catholic Chaplain Helps Patients Keep Spirits Up in Isolation

For Emergency Department Chaplain Deacon George Baghdassarian, BCC, keeping isolated patients' spirits up has been a priority. So every day, he makes a point to speak on the phone with as many patients as possible. 

And through his visits with patients, he's found that what makes them the most anxious and scared is the loneliness because visitors are strictly curtailed during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

"What's more frightening is the isolation," Baghdassarian said. "I've really been wanting to contact patients and speak to them, just to make sure that I'm speaking with them over the phone," he said.

Baghdassarian shared in his video diary that he doesn't feel like there are easy answers to the questions patients are asking right now, but that he offers guidance and prayer.

"It's a big wake-up call. It's like, what are your priorities in life?" Baghdassarian said. "I feel like God's got my attention."