We #GiveThanks — Walter Spears

St. Jude chaplain Walter Spears discusses why he is thankful for an occupation that expands his horizons and gives him the flexibility to spend time with loved ones.

Walter Spears

Before I came to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in September 2007, I never took time to eat lunch in the middle of the day. But I have found that eating lunch in our hospital’s cafeteria with my fellow chaplains is a valuable part of my workday and something I look forward to.

I am thankful to enjoy strong and healthy relationships with my colleagues. During lunch, we often have conversations where we challenge one another to think about things differently or from other points of view. Our daily lunch conversations are much more than just a break to eat our meals. These times allow us to stop and regroup from the morning before going back to work in the afternoon.

Working in an environment among such talented faculty and staff members, I’m encouraged and motivated by the energy of everyone. There are so many go-getters working at St. Jude, and that positivity and enthusiasm drives me each day. I am currently involved in an evidence-based practice fellowship, which is a yearlong program where we explore existing clinical practices and the best research evidence for practice changes. The fellowship is another way I am challenged professionally to grow in my position.

There’s no such thing as a typical work day for me, but I often start by meeting with patients who are on my schedule for that day or interacting with staff members. Sometimes my role involves being available for whatever comes next—responding to the spiritual, religious and emotional needs of patients, families and employees.

I’m also grateful for the long-term relationships that I’m able to foster with patients and families. Many of our patients receive treatment over extended periods of time, which allows me to work with families in a deeper way and affords me the opportunity to see both patients and families mature during their time at St. Jude.

I pour my passion for spiritual care into my work. At the end of the day, I look forward to spending time with my wife and our 14-year-old daughter. I haven’t missed any of the special moments in my daughter’s life, and I attribute that to St. Jude, which gives me balance between my personal and professional life. Having the flexibility to stay connected to my family is of the utmost importance to me, and for that, I am so grateful.

Walter Spears is a staff chaplain with Spiritual Care Services.

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