Without the same level of in-person contact with loved ones, COVID hospital patients this past year have turned more to the spiritual connection hospital chaplains offer.

“With the pandemic, I do feel that there is a bigger need because there is that uncertainty, there’s an element of fear because of that uncertainty, and no one wants to be alone,” CHI St. Alexius Medical Center Director of Mission Integration Sister Nancy Miller said.

Miller oversees Bismarck CHI St. Alexius’s two chaplains.

Don Schmid has been there six years and says the work itself hasn’t changed because of the COVID, but the patients have.

“One thing we’ve really noticed in COVID patients is that their level of anxiety and fear is elevated. That’s where the assurance of prayer and the provision of encouragement is definitely needed,” Schmid said.

Sanford in Bismarck has five chaplains who provide comfort for patients and families.

Chaplain Christina Martin remembers a time she was in the hospital when her husband and son were with her every step of the way.

“But you don’t get that in COVID isolation. The most you get is maybe Facetime, or conversation on a phone if you can hear. I think that’s part of the hardest thing is kind of that separation,” Martin said.

Martin says chaplains are there for anybody regardless of denomination.

“I’m humbled every day to be able to support an incredible healthcare team that is working tirelessly to fulfill their calling to care for and heal patients and individuals,” Martin said.

Sanford also has a meditation room for families and patients, and CHI has a chapel.