Trauma center designed for compassionate care

By Mary P. Walker
Senior Correspondent

CHI St. Joseph Health Regional Hospital’s Emergency & Trauma Center in Bryan was designed to give the highest level of emergency care in an environment that offers compassion, comfort and convenience for patients and their families. 
“We are the hands of Christ. We believe in transforming hurt into hope,” said Sister Penny Dunn of the Sisters of St. Francis of Sylvania, Ohio, vice president of mission integration. 
The trauma center is the latest commitment in a long history of ministering to the bodies, minds and spirits of the Brazos Valley. In 1936, the sisters purchased and renamed Bryan Hospital in honor of St. Joseph. Over time, the faith-based, not-for-profit health system has grown to five hospital facilities, as well as primary and specialty care clinics that offer expert care closer to home. 
“As the sisters celebrate 80 years of ministry in the Bryan/College area and approach the 100th anniversary of their order, the trauma center is a beautiful addition to our community,” said Msgr. John Malinowski, hospital chaplain.
The center officially opened in May as the only Level II trauma center in the Brazos Valley and includes an emergency team of surgeons, specialized physicians, nurses, first responders, medical professionals and helicopter ambulance capabilities. Spacious treatment rooms allow loved ones to remain with patients, and “rapid exam rooms” offer the convenience of treating non-life threatening illnesses and simple emergencies quickly.
Sister Dunn explained that the mission of delivering quality, compassionate care goes beyond treating illness and injury. Meeting high medical standards is not enough. When interviewing applicants for jobs throughout the health system, she gauges how well a candidate embraces the mission of compassionate service. 
Dr. Vincent Ohaju, trauma medical director, said that the special culture of CHI St. Joseph Health made him want to practice there. He immediately noticed the difference in the attitude and focus of his coworkers. “A lot of my colleagues come here because they feel it is a vocation. They have a ministry they want to fulfill,” Dr. Ohaju said. 
One of the qualities admired by Dr. Ohaju is the way CHI St. Joseph Health addresses the nonmedical needs of patients and their families. Ministering to the sick involves many acts of charity, including visits, prayer, a listening ear and practical help.
CHI St. Joseph Health has a Catholic heritage and respects the faith traditions and wishes of patients and their families regarding spiritual care. Five full-time chaplains of different denominations and traditions, aided by part-time chaplains and lay volunteers, bring comfort and can be incorporated into the healing process. Sister Dunn cited the example of a housekeeper, who cleans rooms and makes herself available to pray with patients when asked.
For Catholics, Msgr. Malinowski is on call to anoint the sick and administer the sacraments. Daily Mass is celebrated in the hospital chapel, with closed circuit viewing from patient rooms. 
Msgr. Malinowski also noted that CHI St. Joseph Health conforms to the “Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services,” a document published by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. This document outlines the moral principles for health care, including respect for human life, the importance of alleviating suffering, and guidance for end-of-life decisions. In addition, patients have the security of knowing that he is available to aid families and staff interpret and apply these principles in real-life situations. 
Even the design and décor of the hospital contribute to the mission of compassionate care. Natural lighting, art depicting the beauty of nature and religious subjects, and scripture and inspirational quotations on the walls promote a cheerful ambiance. The Healing Garden offers staff, patients and visitors a place for quiet reflection.
Through the years, the challenges of providing health care in the growing Brazos Valley have changed. Determined to uphold the high standards of the Franciscan heritage of their founders, the health system’s governing body recognized the need for better access to resources and capital. After studying a number of alternatives, the regional system joined Catholic Health Initiatives (CHI) in 2014, and added this designation to the names of their healthcare facilities and practices. 
CHI is one of the nation’s largest health systems, and includes the participation of 13 religious orders. Sister Dunn is happy to report that CHI St. Joseph Health is now part of an organization that shares in the mission of compassionate care and the commitment to building wellness in the community.