Rehabilitation Unit Receives Dedicated Support from Local Congregation

By Eric Whittington

Having witnessed life-altering care provided to one of their own, a local congregation is using a new program at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center to adopt a group of caregivers. Members of Center Grove Baptist Church in Clemmons are partnering with the nurses, therapists and caregivers on the third-floor rehabilitation unit at the Sticht Center on Aging as part of the unit adoption program.

Rev. Maria Teresa Jones

Rev. Maria Teresa Jones

The program, offered through Chaplaincy and Clinical Ministries at the Medical Center, allows local faith communities to forge relationships that support not just the care that’s provided but the providers themselves. “To care and be cared for requires the whole beloved community to participate,” says Rev. Maria Teresa Jones (left), chaplaincy program manager for staff support. “Faith communities can and do make an incredible difference in the lives of professional caregivers and can create an ever-evolving healthy community for all.”

Jones says the program can address such concerns as compassion fatigue, burnout and moral distress among caregivers. Faith communities provide prayer, support, care and comfort to everyone who works on a specific unit. Those caregivers can then give more fully compassionate care, along with nursing and medical skill.

“It’s about building the relationships and letting them know that we care for them,” says Gretchen Bayne, a Center Grove member and manager of wellness programs for Best Health for Us at Wake Forest Baptist. “We’re here to support and encourage them—whatever that looks like for them.

“Our church Life Group class thought it was a great opportunity to care for the people who cared for someone we love so much.”

Mike and Robin Lancaster

Mike and Robin Lancaster

That “someone” is a couple—Center Grove members Mike and Robin Lancaster (at right). In February 2013, Mike awoke with what he thought was a migraine. When Robin heard Mike slur his speech, she realized her husband was having a stroke. Mike, who was 44 and on the Medical Center’s information technology staff, got the care he needed at Wake Forest Baptist and eventually moved to the Sticht Center’s Acquired Brain Injury unit for post-stroke rehab. He spent 10 weeks there over two years. The care was excellent throughout, and “I can’t say enough about the nurses,” Robin says.

They knew what they wanted to do

The Lancasters’ friends from Center Grove visited regularly and saw the difference that the dedicated nurses and therapists made in Mike’s recovery. When the Life Group learned about the unit adoption program in early 2018, they knew what they wanted to do.

“Children’s floors usually get adopted first, and they were tickled that we were taking a different unit,” Robin says. “They took such good care of us, and we wanted to repay that.”

Center Grove member Melinda Rice serves as a liaison between the group and the unit. She works directly with Jamie Brown, RN, lead nurse on the third-floor unit. “We’re just a small group of people,” Rice says. “But when we come together, we can make a big difference in the life of one, which would be enough, or many if we’re allowed to.”

The group includes about 30 people, according to Life Group leader Ray McDowell. He says the goal is to fulfill Center Grove’s mission to love, grow, serve and share. “Our church does a lot of outreach, but as a group, we were looking for something we could do on a regular basis to complete that,” McDowell says. “Right now, we’re bringing food and that’s a good thing, but we’re also looking for other things, to relate more, really care about these people and find opportunities to do some other things of a more personal nature.”

In September, the group made its third visit to the floor and set up a prayer box for the staff. Ultimately, every act is designed with the caregivers in mind. “I hope the nurses and staff realize how much they’re loved and appreciated,” Robin says. “As a patient, it can be hard to convey that when you’re overwhelmed by this major life event that’s just happened. It can be easy for the nurses and staff to get overlooked and overshadowed. We want them to know that they are noticed and hopefully just share the love of Jesus with them.”

To learn more about how your congregation can “care for the caregivers” at Wake Forest Baptist, contact Rev. Maria Teresa Jones, Chaplain for Staff Support, 336-716-9647.