Rick's Volunteer Chaplin Story

Jun 6, 2019

Rick Martin, Chaplain Coordinator, Piedmont Medical Center 

The bible says laughter does the heart good like a medicine, so I usually try and leave people smiling. 

Photo of Former Local Pastor Turned Piedmont Medical Center's Chaplain, Rick MartinRick Martin has always known he was called to serve.  

“It was just clear as a bell that God called me to it,” he says. “He gave me an ability to speak and a love for people.” 

A local pastor for the past 35 years, he recently took a break from ministry in an area church and came to Piedmont Medical Center in February 2014 to develop a chaplaincy program for patients and the staff. He wants to be able to talk to patients in their times of need and reassure them in their struggles day by day. 

“There are people all the time who need to talk to someone,” he says.  

When working with his local church, Rick says his impact was limited and he was only able to touch the people in that congregation.  Now, his reach is far much greater with patients in the hospital, and their immediate needs can be much more serious.  

 “I got a call last week from a woman in the cancer ward who was just told she only has about a month to live,” he says. “And we met and talked and prayed. I just went back and visited her this morning and she is feeling somewhat better about her situation, but she is preparing herself to die.” 

Rick is always learning new and more meaningful ways to comfort patients, getting training in grief and trauma, and emotional and spiritual care in times of disaster.  

“I am looking to broaden the impact that I can have,” he says. “Seeing someone go from shaking in fear to calmness in their demeanor, and their ability to make decisions based on God’s wisdom and direction instead of emotion. We try to help them work through those fears and emotions.” 

Rick has seen the highs, basking in the relief parents felt as their non-breathing baby finally gasped for air. And he has seen the lows, sitting with strangers all alone as they pass on from this life.  

“Some are going in peace because there is someone there holding their hand. But unfortunately, people die who don’t have any family, who don’t have anyone who cares about them. And when you meet with them it, breaks your heart,” Rick says. 

A new prayer box has been installed in the chapel, and Rick checks it every day to see who needs his help. And when he is the one who needs help, he has found a few techniques to help him deal with the pain he sees every day. 

“I turn it over to the Lord a lot,” he says. “Sometimes I will let it out when I am on the highway and no one else can hear me.” 

He can also turn to his family, his wife of 36 years, their two children and two grandchildren. 

“She comes with me on occasion to visit with folks, especially those that she is familiar with, and she helps me in praying for some of them as well,” Rick says of his wife.   

Rick still runs into old congregants at the hospital, too - families he has known for years. After all, he grew up here, too. 

I am an old York County boy,” he says.  

On the other side 

Rick is also able to draw from his own experiences as a patient to guide him now. He was first admitted to Piedmont 13 years ago with his first heart attack. 

“I drove myself here and walked in. Thirty minutes later, I was on the cath lab table getting a stent,” he says. “Three years later, I came in for another checkup and a heart cath. I had a busy week, but they had already moved the guy scheduled for the morning and I had quadruple bypass surgery here at Piedmont.” 

Most recently, he had another heart attack in January 2014.  

As a chaplain, Rick serves as a go between for patients and their nurses or doctors, sometimes able to get more honest answers out of them by simply sitting and talking. “People want to know what is going on and communication is key.  It is nice to have someone to talk to, to give them positive advice and to give them encouragement along the way,” he says. 

And he also participates in Mended Hearts, a support group for patients who have had heart attacks or heart surgery. 

“The bible says laughter does the heart good like a medicine, so I usually try and leave people smiling,” he says.