Chaplains Walter Spears (center) and Mark Brown serve up lively conversation and elegant snacks to staff.

An Expression of Grace

St. Jude chaplains’ Tea Time offers clinicians welcome interruptions to busy workdays.

By Mike O'Kelly; Photo by Peter Barta

It’s a busy Thursday in the Assessment/Triage Clinic at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. Suddenly, the doors of the bustling unit swing open. Nurses look up from their posts as they hear rolling wheels and light footsteps echo through the clinic.

The smiling faces of chaplains Mark Brown and Walter Spears of St. Jude Spiritual Care Services greet the clinic’s staff.

“It’s Tea Time,” Brown cheerfully exclaims, as the duo guides a refreshment cart to the clinic’s break room.

Word of the afternoon visitors spreads quickly. Staff members find their way to the area for refreshment and conversation.

“Y’all have made my whole day,” says Samantha Brannon, an Assessment/Triage nurse, who is one of the first in line for the selection of tea, coffee, hot chocolate and three types of scones baked by St. Jude Food Services.

Tea Time with the Chaplains began in 2013 as a surprise respite for clinicians throughout the hospital. Two of the hospital’s four chaplains spend an afternoon each month visiting clinical areas to serve refreshments.

Chaplains offer the warm beverages in fine china—cup and saucer included. There are no to-go cups, a touch of elegance that encourages a few minutes of face-to-face interaction. Cart-side discussions range from workday experiences to more personal conversations about life.

We arrive in the middle of a busy workday so our staff members are reminded that people are thankful for what they do and that what they do is noticed and recognized.

Chaplain Mark Brown

 

“What we are doing is bringing an expression of grace into the workplace,” says Brown, who coordinates the program. “We arrive in the middle of a busy workday so our staff members are reminded that people are thankful for what they do and that what they do is noticed and recognized.”

Jo Ann Powell, of St. Jude Assessment/Triage, says staff members look forward to the visits, which often are timed perfectly.

“We pretty much work nonstop in the mornings seeing patients,” she says. “For our chaplains to do this shows that it’s OK to take a break, enjoy a moment and have some social time.”

“Tea Time is one of the most joyous things we do as chaplains,” Brown says. “It is a moment of hospitality and care.” 

From Promise, Winter 2018

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