If you have a heart attack and go to ER in an Exempla hospital such as Lutheran Medical Center in Wheat Ridge, St. Joseph’s in Denver, or Good Samaritan in Lafayette, the head nurse will automatically page a chaplain. The chaplain through presence will give support to you and your family — and prayers if the family wishes.  If you are taken to the operating room, the chaplain will lead your apprehensive family to a coronary care waiting room.
From 2005 to 2010 I worked as an on-call chaplain for Exempla hospitals. To train for this position, I took four units of clinical pastoral education. The professor of my classes, Foy Richey, taught lessons on the ministry of presence and techniques of listening. I loved the classes because they helped my ability to be of service.
Dee Kerby was my mentor on my first internship which took place at Elk Run Assisted living in Evergreen. During that internship I learned problems which elderly people deal with such as dementia and the death of spouses. Listening to older people, I grew to understand better what their needs were and how to relate to them.  
“When people share their fears,” Richey said, “You are on holy ground.”
For Richey’s classes, I wrote verbatims of conversations I had with patients during my internships. Copies of the verbatims were distributed in class for discussion.
Rev. Frank Gold, my second mentor, helped me learn the ropes of hospital chaplaincy at Lutheran Medical Center.  He set an example for me in how he related to the staff. We shared moments of laughter, which broke the tension of dealing with stress and deaths in the hospital.
When my mother was in Lutheran Medical Center for four months in l992, I didn’t know chaplains were available. But during hospital internships, I learned first hand that chaplains were not only available in emergencies and deaths, but also for depressed patients.
At Lutheran, I had conversations with patients in West Pines, the unit for potential suicides, and substance abusers. The patients wanted to discuss spiritual issues such as guilt.  After getting to know them, they usually requested prayer. Fortunately prayer was one of my strengths as a chaplain.
I am not a minister, but a Catholic laywoman. During the time I worked as a chaplain, I felt good about being part of a team helping others. But chaplaincy is a stressful job, and after my mother passed away, I retired.
I spotted an ad for columnists in the , I began writing columns again, as I had in the past.
But last year when I had a scary hospitalization, I didn’t forget to request a chaplain. Frank Gold rushed to my side. Looking puzzled and worried, he said, “What are doing in here?”
I explained my internal bleeding.  “I’m scared,” I said.
With the support of Frank Gold and other chaplains and hospital staff, my husband, Dick and my friend Claudia a retired ER nurse,  I got through a harrowing episode which required blood transfusions.
During my hospitalization, I could see how chaplaincy provided support from a patient’s point of view.
And I noticed the time chaplains visited with me never appeared on my staggering hospital bill.  It’s one of the best things in life that is still free.