Stephanie Linscott is an ordained, board certified chaplain at M. D. Anderson. She joined us in 1999. She works primarily with outpatients in the ambulatory care building, providing a much needed spiritual presence to patients and families. She also helps coordinate and train a small group of lay spiritual care volunteers. Together, they cover the entire ambulatory care building, providing compassionate care to anyone who expresses a desire for spiritual support.
What motivated you to enter Chaplaincy as a career?
I was required to take a unit of Clinical Pastoral Education while at seminary. Until that summer, I had no idea what a chaplain did. That summer was the hardest I have ever worked in ministry, but I discovered gifts for the ministry of chaplaincy. I was so motivated by that experience, that I took the opportunity to work at St. Luke's Episcopal Hospital for a year as a chaplain after working in parish ministry. I received so much affirmation of my ministry there that I knew that chaplaincy is where God wanted me to be.
What's the most challenging part of your work?
Working with outpatients, the most challenging aspect of my ministry is finding and being with patient in their time of need. Their schedules are so busy and it is a challenge to find a quiet moment or space to really be with them. However, our patients adapt very well to the situation and hopefully, so do I.
What's the most rewarding part of your work?
I think that finishing a visit with a patient and feeling that they are in a better place or not any worse energizes me for the work and the next visit.
What do you find to the most helpful when visiting with a cancer patient?
I find that my visits are most effective when I approach patients with an open mind and without any agenda. It is easier to be with someone when I let them inform me of what is important and what they need from me. Many times, patients are not sure what they need and that is where my training comes into play.
Working with cancer patients can be emotionally draining. How do you recharge?
I am very careful to take time between visits when they are long and/or intense. I go to a quiet place to lift the patient and the visit up in prayer and reflect on what I was feeling during the visit. A Starbucks Hazelnut Latte helps also!
What spiritual or religious resource do you find most personally helpful?
I start the morning with a daily reading from scripture and a meditation from "My Utmost for His Highest." I do this to focus myself on what my part is in God's work and to remind me daily of the source of all healing.
What personal characteristics do you believe make an effective chaplain?
I believe that a good chaplain has a strong enough sense of self to put aside their own needs and agendas in order to be with people and recognize when they need to get out of the way so that the Spirit can work. It is essential that a chaplain be firmly grounded in their own spirituality/faith, so that they become a conduit for grace and healing instead of a stumbling block.
Are there spiritual/religious topics that you personally wrestle with?
When I struggle with spiritual issues, I feel my faith is strongest. Questioning puts me in conversation with God and that is where I need to be. I do not expect or receive any pat answers, because what I really need is not all the answers to life's mysteries, but a clear understanding of the questions that I need to ask.
What would you like cancer patients and their families to know about M. D. Anderson?
M.D. Anderson is a place of hope and healing. Every aspect of the person who is a patient here is valued and is part of their care. Sometimes the disease is overcome, but in all cases, the opportunity for healing is present.