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Fitzgibbon Chaplain leads National Conference

December 08, 2022

Fitzgibbon Hospital, via its mental health and spiritual care services, values and recognized the importance of the emotional well-being of its patients as well as their physical health. With that in mind, the organization has dedicated resources and staff to ensure spiritual health is addressed. And most recently, that expertise was recognized when Fitzgibbon Hospital and Fitzgibbon Hospice chaplain Richard DeFord, MDiv, BCC/BCPC, was called upon to lead the national conference for the Association of Certified Christian Chaplains.

That event was held from Nov. 11-13 in Springfield, Mo. ACCC is a board-certifying body for chaplains and pastoral counselors with nearly 700 members nationwide. The annual conference was called Soul Care 2022. It was the first time the conference was held in Missouri. Last year the conference was held in St. Petersburg, FL. and is scheduled to be held in Indianapolis in 2023.

            This year’s conference included an emphasis on self-care for chaplains serving on the front lines of healthcare, military, first responder organizations, education, prisons and corporate environments, focused largely on moral injury and post-traumatic stress disorder, especially in light of the recent pandemic. One session discussed the differences between PTSD and moral injury and was presented by Clinical Pastoral Educator Tony Duck, MRE, BCC/BCCS. Duck has more than 35 years of combined experience in pastoral ministry, military and corporate/workplace chaplaincy.

            Additional topics of the annual conference included spiritual care in a psychiatric context, presented by author and Chaplain Landon Loftin, MA, BCC. The presentation demonstrated that the mindset of many in the mental health community wrongfully disregard the effects of spiritual health and how it relates to the mental states of individuals in crisis, while the religious community often disregards the effects of anatomy and physiology in the spiritual states of individuals in crisis.

            Dan Weiser, Th.D, Chaplain Supervisor presented his emotional and personal story of when he needed a chaplain following his wife’s health emergency earlier this year. Weiser’s wife, Amy, had a sudden asthma attack that caused CPR to be administered in the small emergency room where the couple lives with their children. Ultimately, Amy survived and her husband was very thankful for the work of the chaplain in Tulsa, OK who came to his side.  The presentation reminded chaplains of why their work is so important in a medical emergency, even when they may feel overwhelmed after the last three years of providing care.

            There were several other presenters who spoke on varying topics from grief and loss to self-care. DeFord led each of the sessions, planned and organized the event and led the attendees in numerous activities, including leading more than 45 chaplains to a showing of The Miracle of Christmas at the Sight and Sound Theater in Branson, Mo.

            More than 70 new chaplains across the country received their board-certification certificates at this year’s event.

DeFord earned board certification with the ACCC in 2017 and became dual board certified by the Spiritual Care Association. He earned board certification as a Pastoral Counselor in 2018. Chaplains from the organization are fully recognized by the Veteran’s Administration for the provision of spiritual care for people of all faiths, including those who identify as not having faith or particular religious practice.  DeFord joined the staff at Fitzgibbon Hospital in 2013 and became the chaplain for Fitzgibbon’s home health and hospice services in 2016.