Speed Visiting

On a short-term experimental basis the hospice I work for has decided to try out a new system for chaplain visits. It is called “speed visiting” (after the concept of “speed dating”). We know the advantages of speed dating, where we quickly screen out the folks we are not interested in and zero in on the most likely candidates. Why spend lots of time trying to unravel all sorts of deep and convoluted layers of meaning when a truly skilled chaplain can size up a person in a matter of seconds? After all, we know the signs of sadness, anger, disgust, ennui, denial and all the rest. And we know how to instantly respond to their need to be heard. We just have to urge them to express their distress in a sound-bite appropriate length, just as they do in other areas of their life. We just have to reassure them that we get what they are feeling almost as if we were inside their brains, so they don’t have to elaborate.  And why waste gobs of time with patients who really are not the least bit interested in seeing a chaplain just to have more to say in our medical record notes? And if we need to vent, we really are desperate if we have to do so in our clinical notes, I mean really!

Really? Speed visiting? April Fools!!

A Student Prank

Usually my stories are true, but one time as a gag I wrote a fictitious dialog, putting one over my chaplain school supervisor and the other chaplain interns. I dated the dialog April 1st, but nevertheless they were fooled. The heart of the program at the school (called Clinical Pastoral Education) was for students to write word for word as accurately as they could remember, some of their visits to patients. Afterwards with our supervisor, we would analyze the dialogues and look for ways we could serve patients better in the future. As the true dialogs I wrote are too full of embarrassing flaws from me as a rookie chaplain, I now share this invented story to amuse you and to give you a taste of what it was like to be a chaplain intern.

                               The Dialogue

(Context of visit) I was on my regular rounds at Cornell University Medical Center when I visited Norman. The patient was seated on his bed, with a bandage near his elbow. As I enter, he is reading A Farewell to Arms. I notice a fixed look in his eyes. One of the social workers had told me that Norman is a “strange bird.”

Karen: Good morning. I’m Chaplain Kaplan.

Norman: Oh, are you and Charlie Chaplin related? Then you’d be Chaplain Chaplin. (K: I laugh. that SW had something there.) You won’t believe why I’m in here. It’s kinda ridiculous really.

Karen: No, no, not at all. Tell me your story.

Norman: You’ll think I’m pulling your leg. It’s not important enough for being in a serious hospital.

Karen: Not important enough?

Norman: I’m here because a cat helped itself to a portion of my arm for lunch. (K: I grimace  and say, ooh, ouch!) Now see that?  Here I am now having to comfort the chaplain.

Karen: (Oops. What went wrong here? I was trying to reflect back his feelings and show some empathy.) Oh, it’s not that. I…

Norman: Well, I’ll give you another chance. (K: How nice of this clown and out loud I say, “Oh, I see.) Anyway, this arm hurts like hell. And you know what? I’ve been a major patron of the Society to Prevent Cruelty to Animals for many a year. But after what that worthless scrawny tabby did to me, that’s it.

Karen: That’s it?

Norman: No more donations from Yours Truly to the SPCA. Not from this victim.

Karen: So you feel betrayed. Bit to the quick. Angry.

Norman: Sure! There should be a Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Humans.

Karen: (Is this guy for real? I laugh. I join in the fantasy.) I wonder how many dogs and cats would join?

Norman: (Is this girl for real?) This has gotta be the most unusual conversation I’ve ever had.

Karen: (as he dozes off, I make my getaway.)


In my next post, I will follow up with a theological analysis and an evaluation. No, no, just joking.