A Dose of Hope is Sometimes What the Doctor Ordered An Interview with Walla Walla General Hospital President Morre Dean

Your mission statement talks about restoring peace, hope and health like Christ did. Many hospitals restore health. What exactly does Walla Walla General Hospital (WWGH) do for patients to restore peace and hope?

At WWGH, we take care of patients as whole people—which requires that we recognize that there is more to their situation than their physical ailments.

How do you create an environment that fosters this perspective?

We make it clear that there will be a spiritual component to daily work here. Specifically, we’ve made prayer the focal point for the spiritual life of our hospital. The power of prayer has the ability to make us more compassionate and to create a better healing environment.

So you pray together?

Yes, in a variety of ways. We begin and close the week with a prayer that is read over the PA system. We also have a weekly prayer group that prays for patients in general—and for employees and physicians by name.

What about your employees and physicians—isn’t it just as important to be ministering to their spiritual needs?

For staff to give good care, their own “cup” needs to be “full.” So we look for ways to restore peace, hope and health to our employees and physicians to ensure that our caregivers are in a good position to give the care that our patients need.

How would you describe the difference in care that a spiritually-centered caregiver might offer vs. someone who has no connection with God?

As Christians, we have the ability to deliver compassionate care to a greater extent because we have the ultimate role model in Christ. It goes back to not just treating the ailment, but treating the whole person—who is in need of peace and hope, as well as health.

Can you give me an example of how this plays out at the patient’s bedside?

Before surgery, surgeons and anesthesiologists ask patients if they would like prayer, and probably 99 percent of them say yes. Of course, our chaplain is available to offer spiritual care to every patient. But we also go beyond that to try to create a sense of God’s presence in the atmosphere—whether it is through Christian artwork or providing extra measures of comfort, such as massage therapy, to our patients.

Have you found any innovative ways to nurture spirituality among employees?

This past year, during Easter we created a self-paced meditation experience that gave staff the option of visiting various stations to contemplate the death and resurrection of Christ. It was very powerful, and I think it will generate some other similar ways of fostering the spirituality of our caregivers.

What impact have these measures had?

I get many letters from patients, but the No. 1 comment I receive is one of appreciation for the prayers we have with them. When they talk about what is different here, they always bring up the spirit of compassion.

What are your dreams for creating spiritual vitality at WWGH?

My dream would be that everyone who works or is treated here leaves with the feeling that they were valued.

August 01, 2006 / Adventist Health