February 23, 2012
By Michael Ferraresi
GCU News Bureau
After guiding GCU students through an atrium filled with piano music, Mayo Hospital chaplain Patrick Hansen walked the visitors through a meandering prayer garden marked by a soothing waterfall.
The north Phoenix hospital offered the class a glimpse Wednesday at some of the most tranquil, comforting amenities available in modern health care. The students met Hansen as part of a Spirituality and Health Care course that emphasizes the impact of faith on health and wellness.
||Hansen, who joined Mayo as chaplain in 1999, concluded his talk in the hospital's chapel. Complete with stained glass and a domed ceiling that changes colors, the chapel serves a multi-denominational respite for grieving families. Everything Mayo offers, from the lack of the "hospital smell" of cleaning products to the original artwork scattered throughout the facility, is designed to help patients feel safe and at peace.
The course taught by Dr. Tim Larkin, a GCU associate professor, exposes students to elements of the health-care system that will impact their careers.
Larkin's students also focus on the unseen - the transcendence of the flesh, prayer as a catalyst for healing, and reconciliation. Students who attended the tour were encouraged to explore their faith and center on their own spirits before attending to the gravely ill.
"Many people don't believe death is an end. It's a beginning," Hansen told the group of mostly GCU juniors and seniors.
"You've got to figure out what you think about that, how you live it, and what story you're going to use about that."
Experts say the sense of peace and resolution makes death more comfortable. Larkin said faith is essential to getting well, or achieving some sense of balance before passing.
"Faith is built on hope, and hope is the gasoline for this engine of motivation," said Larkin, who is in his second year of teaching at GCU.
Larkin worked for 17 years as chaplain at Cook County Hospital in Chicago. His Spirituality and Health Care course was introduced in the fall. It's required in order to graduate from the College of Arts and Sciences.
Larkin said he felt the students connected with Mayo and were able to see the philosophy of practical, faithful health care at a major Valley medical center. He added that he hoped to continue to "elevate the experiential" with similar outings to expose his classes directly to the health-care industry.
The group also discussed self-care for health-care professionals, who are so often exposed to death and dying that they have a heightened "sense of vulnerability," Hansen said. A connection to prayer or positive distractions such as exercise or meditation can help.
Reach Michael Ferraresi at firstname.lastname@example.org.