Program Encourages Prayer at LA Hospital
Prayer is an essential part of treating patients at Adventist Health, reflecting the organization's mission of whole person care, body, mind and spirit. At White Memorial Medical Center in Los Angeles, the influence of prayer comes alive through the Praying Hands Ambassador Program.
Each morning, Shirley Welch pauses at the end of food preparation to pray over the patients' meals. Welch, a shift leader for Nutritional Services at WMMC, prays that the food will bless the patients and meet their nutritional needs. This is just a small part of the Praying Hands program, which affects all parts of patient care.
Edgar Urbina, director of Chaplaincy Services, believes prayer is essential in patient care, and started the Praying Hands Ambassador Program to organize the hospital's prayer life. "As a faith-based institution, WMMC encourages prayer as an element in the spiritual life of our facility," Urbina said.
The program incorporates prayer into the daily life of employees at WMMC, and more than 40 people are currently participating. Of these participants, Urbina commented, "They are sensitive to the spiritual needs of patients, their family, visitors and staff."
Two parts of the program that involve all Praying Hands Ambassadors are the code blue announcement and birth chimes. A code blue signals that someone in the hospital is in cardiac arrest. Whenever a code blue is announced over the hospital intercom, the Praying Hands Ambassadors stop their work to pray for the patient and the patient's family.
This aspect of the program is especially significant for Praying Hands Ambassador Mike Leal, a shipping and receiving clerk at WMMC whose father died after going into cardiac arrest at WMMC. "When I hear code blues, I get shivers," Leal said. "It brings me back to the time when my father passed away. I've been in their shoes. I know how they feel."
However, not all of the prayers in the program are for healing. In fact, the birth chimes signal prayers of thanks.
"When the birth chimes come on, the Praying Hands Ambassadors pray for the infants," stated Kerry Park, M.D., an OB/GYN at WMMC. "It's great. It's their first prayer as they come into this world."
The birth chimes are the highlight of the Praying Hands Ambassador Program for Elaine Valles, an Information Technology specialist at WMMC, and she also sees the positive effects of the program all around the hospital. "Prayer is very important in a hospital environment," Valles said. "When someone has prayer offered for them, there is a sense of divine presence in their room. I think it's tangible to those who are willing to open their hearts to it."
The Praying Hands Ambassador Program is not meant to replace personal prayer, but rather to add the needs of patients and fellow staff members to employees' personal prayers. The program also helps busy employees remember to take time out of their busy schedules to uplift the patients at WMMC in prayer.