A Day at Shodair: Part 2

Sister Trish Dick works as a spiritual counselor at Shodair Hospital in Helena, Mont. The hospital serves children who have undergone extreme trauma.

Our patients, if they are not on the acute unit, attend school, starting around 9:15 a.m. My mornings are usually given to staff leadership meetings, one-on-one spiritual direction with clinicians and staff. Because of the severe acute trauma that the staff and clinicians experience as they work with these patients, the staff experience their own secondary trauma and struggle with ethical and moral issues. As one puts it: “Your office is like a sacred space that we can finally share our concerns, struggles and secondary trauma.” My role with the staff and within the hospital includes maintaining confidentiality, except where there is the possibility of harming others or suicide. I am honored that people trust me to be their companion they as work through their secondary trauma.

A smudging stick.

My afternoons are filled with meeting with the patients. I will meet with a patient in their room or, if they can be taken off the secured unit, they will meet in my office or we will go for a walk, weather permitting. I prefer to take them to my office or outside to give them some fresh air and absorb the beauty of the surrounding mountains of Helena. I might also do smudging with the Native American purification ritual with patients who request it. A Native American elder gave me a lesson on how to smudge and his blessing to do it. The hospital has a sizable number of  Native Americans and this ritual is important to their healing and identity. This is a new form of prayer that I am learning and growing into. I was gifted a smudge stick and sweet grass from the Native American elder. I googled how to make a smudge stick and made two of my own from the hospital garden that the patients had planted.  

I am learning, growing and stretching in so many ways. I am grateful for this ministry experience and my compassion runs deep within me as I work with and alongside these folks who suffer from acute mental illness. 

Trish Dick, OSB