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Caring for the Mind, Body and Spirit of Veterans

A graphic depicting the social media campaign Wellness Wednesday, with Chaplain Carol Lucas-Ramsey, who discusses Spiritual Health.

The mission of the Washington DC VA Medical Center’s Chaplain Service is to provide spiritual and religious care to all Veterans who seek it.

They minister to newly admitted, pre- and post-operative patients, the critically ill, and their families and help them to deal with moral and ethical struggles.

With a team of 10 professionally trained chaplains at the DC VA Medical Center, care is available to Veterans in many different forms to ensure a right fit for everyone who seeks it.

Chief of Chaplain Service, Chaplain Carol Ramsey-Lucas explains that even though her team represents several different denominations, including Muslim, Roman Catholic, and multiple Protestant denominations, they don’t see patients on a specific denominational basis.

“We all provide pastoral and spiritual care to anyone who seeks it, regardless of their religious affiliation,” she said. “Because of the diversity of our team, we are able to really support both denominational needs and a broader spiritual perspective.”

The main role of the Chaplain Service is to visit hospitalized Veterans and offer support and guidance on spiritual healing, which Ramsey-Lucas believes starts with listening.

“We support Veterans in telling their own story. We go to their bedside, and we listen. Maybe we offer prayer or sacramental needs, but it really is about learning their story because sharing is often the first step in healing,” said Ramsey-Lucas.

For those who may struggle to open-up in a face-to-face conversation, there are several programs offered by the Chaplain Service that provide alternative ways to share. The Spirituality and the Arts program allows Veterans to express themselves through spoken or written word, music and song or artwork. Ramsey-Lucas said these programs are very popular with the Veterans.

“They love it! We started our Spirituality and the Arts band years ago and it just keeps growing. We’ve got instrumentalists and vocalists and they write music and produce CDs. It has been a great place for Veterans to find an outlet,” she said.  

A few other groups facilitated by the Chaplain Service include:

  • Wednesday Women’s Book Club
  • Grief and Bereavement Groups
  • Addiction support groups
  • Psychosocial Rehabilitation and Recovery Center Support Groups
  • Warrior to Soulmate relationship skills program
  • Post-COVID support for long-COVID Patients

“We are leading the way in post-COVID spirituality support with our long-COVID group. It started awhile back, and I don’t think it will ever end because the Veterans involved benefit from it so much,” said Ramsey-Lucas. “It provides them with support in a peer group who can relate to what they’re going through in a world that still doesn’t understand the true extent of long-COVID. And it allows the VA to follow their journey and research ways to help those with long-COVID symptoms.”

Ramsey-Lucas’s team of Chaplains strive to lead the way in spiritual care by identifying groups who might benefit from thoughtful spiritual care and finding new ways to support them. Currently, they are working on curriculum to establish an LGBTQ+ Spiritual Care support group and a group to help Veterans reclaim their spirituality after spiritual trauma. She believes that just like psychological, emotional, and physical health, spiritual health is an important part of your overall wellbeing, and her team is on call, 24/7, to help Veterans heal and grow.

“If you are feeling a pull to connect with something bigger than yourself, or to find meaning in your present life, or to explore the range of human emotions for a deeper understanding of spirit and soul. We are here to support and serve you.”

Learn more about the services VA Chaplains provide here: https://www.patientcare.va.gov/chaplain/index.asp#:~:text=VA%20Chaplain…

 

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