Pastoral Care Services

Professional Chaplain Services are available at Watauga Medical Center and to the Foley Center.

Pager #1400 should get you to the chaplain on call any time of day or night, including weekends, Christmas Eve, and Easter Sunday. Chaplains respond from home outside of regular office hours. Because we do have some pockets where pager service is spotty, please re-page or call the director if you ever page 1400 and do not get a response. The director’s contact information can be found in the on-call calendar.

What is the Difference between Pastor and Chaplain?

Generally, a pastor is a Christian minister who has been ordained by a particular denomination to provide care, preaching, and education to people of that denomination. A chaplain works in a secular, public setting that serves people of any faith or people of no faith. Therefore, a chaplain is required to function in a way that is sensitive to all of those served by the institution.

Healthcare chaplains provide crisis intervention, spiritual assessment, and bereavement care, and routinely ask patients about their connection with a local pastor. Chaplains involve community pastors as much as possible, in order to facilitate continuity of spiritual care once a patient leaves the healthcare institution.

When to refer a patient

Chaplains depend on staff across the healthcare system to tell us where the needs are. Anyone can refer a patient to the chaplain. Feel free to enter a consult through Sunrise Clinical Manager, or to page or call the chaplain when any of the following concerns arise:

  • When death has occurred or is imminent
  • When a patient learns of the death of someone close to him/her
  • When a patient asks for a chaplain
  • When you need assistance contacting a patient’s own spiritual leader
  • When a person experiences unresolved grief
  • When a patient is hospitalized due to violence or trauma
  • When a patient will be transported emergently to another facility
  • When a patient is struggling with medical decisions
  • When a patient has problems related to his/her belief system such as unresolved guilt, lack of faith, inability to pray, marked changes in religious practice, a sense of being abandoned by God, a need for forgiveness, or a loss of meaning in life
  • When a patient exhibits unusual religious ideation
  • When a patient receives news of life-threatening conditions or undergoes life-altering surgery (such as amputation)
  • When a person asks religious questions
  • When a patient lacks adequate support systems or effective coping skills
  • When a patient exhibits hopelessness


How to contact a Catholic Priest

Many times, Catholic patients or their family members may request the services of a priest. The request is often for what used to be called “Last Rites” and is extremely comforting to patients or families if a person is expected to die. This ritual is also known as “extreme unction” or the “sacrament of the sick” and can only be performed by a Catholic Priest.

If the patient is affiliated with a local parish, then that is the parish that should be contacted. Most priests provide a means for contacting them in emergencies. If they are unaffiliated with a local congregation, then it is appropriate to contact any of the local congregations to ask for this service. Please start with the closest congregation and work your way out.

St Elizabeth of the Hill Country Catholic Church, Boone
Church office: 828-264-8338
Emergency: 828-355-9786

Father Brendan Buckler

St. Bernadette’s Catholic Church Linville
Church office: 828-898-6900
Emergency: Calls to the church for Father Gober are forwarded to him after hours
Father Christopher Bond

St. Francis of Assisi Catholic Church, Jefferson
Church office: 336-246-9151
Emergency: Outside of office hours, call the office and then dial 31 to reach the priest
Father Cory Catron


What is AppFaithHealth?

AppFaithHealth is a partnership program between ARHS and local faith communities to help build stronger, healthier communities in the High Country. All faith communities are invited to join, and three tiers of membership are available:

  • Tier 1: A clergy person receives a hospital orientation, badge, and parking access
  • Tier 2: A congregation becomes a partner with the hospital by signing a shared commitment form, encouraging church members to register, attending training sessions, and sharing resources.
  • Tier 3: A congregation agrees to reach beyond its own building by offering tangible care to others in their community identified by the healthcare system who desire assistance (within parameters set by AppFaithHealth)

AppFaithHealth congregations may invite their members to sign “pre-consents” which allow the Pastoral Care Department and the Care Management/Social Work department to maintain a more open communication line between the congregation and the healthcare system, notifying the pastor of a patient’s admission and utilizing the resources of the congregation in the discharge plan.

AppFaithHealth members are noted in the medical record under “Patient information” tab. AppFaithHealth clergy have been oriented to hospital protocol by the Pastoral Care Department, and are issued a vertical badge with their name and photo ID on it. Please make sure our clergy have as much access as possible to the patients with whom they are ministering.

Can I pray with my patient?

Nurses and other staff often ask about praying with patients. And it is not uncommon for patients to ask clinical staff to pray for them. Certainly spiritual care is part of the holistic care many clinicians provide to patients. But we want to make sure we provide that in a way that is ethically sound and non-coercive.

Dr. Harold Koenig, a psychiatrist at Duke University who has written and researched extensively about the connection between religion, spirituality, and health, offers rules of thumb to help guide decision-making about clinicians praying with patients:

  • Do not impose your religious beliefs on patients or initiate prayer without patient’s explicit request (Because of the imbalance of power, even unsolicited offers to pray for a patient could be construed as coercive, since some patients would worry about their care if they said no.)
    • Clinician-led prayer is appropriate when the following criteria are met:
      • Clinician and patient have an established relationship and the same religious tradition
      • The patient asks the clinician to pray
      • The clinician is comfortable with and willing to provide prayer
Available patient resources

The following resources are available through the Pastoral Care office at WMC. To access these, please page the chaplain or ask a House Supervisor for assistance.

  • Gideon testaments
  • Guideposts
  • Care notes
  • Finger labyrinths
  • Rosary beads
  • CD players and music on loan
  • Large print Bibles (on loan or copy passages)
  • The Quran (on loan or copy passages)
  • Spanish New Testaments
  • Gone from my Sight booklets (simple end-of-life explanations)
  • Carolina Donor Services information (for employees)
  • Adult coloring and puzzle pages
  • Other items available on request