John Morgan, flight chaplain, was recently honored by the Association of Professional Flight Chaplains (APFC) for his caring service and the unique ways he has advanced the work of the APFC.
As one of only a handful of flight chaplains nationwide, John credits Akron Children’s with seeing the value of including a chaplain on both air and ground transports to provide emotional and spiritual support to patients, families and crews.
“I consider myself one human being helping to care for another,” John said. “I try to help people stay connected to their source of strength – whatever that may be – during a crisis.”
John, who is a full time hospital chaplain, spends 1 day a week with the transport crew and the other days rounding in the PICU and other units providing pastoral care for patients and families. It wasn’t until his last semester of seminary that he learned about clinical pastoral services and thought it sounded like a good fit.
“I feel like my personality and skills are a better fit for this line of work as opposed to preaching or counseling,” he said.
John’s role is to be a supportive presence and reassure families that the doctors and nurses are taking care of their child. His other job is being there for the transport crew or care teams on the units when they are dealing with a particularly difficult or emotional case.
“My role is especially helpful during transport because I provide the family with information at appropriate times about what’s going on and it helps the team focus solely on the patient,” John said. “I try to be a calm and reassuring presence and create a safe space for families to express their grief, shock, etc., and to help them reconnect to their sources of hope.”
John completed his residency at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta and a year-long fellowship at Seattle Cancer Care Alliance before coming to Akron Children’s in 2014. He says he’s dedicated to becoming a better chaplain by enhancing his skills and knowledge. John is currently participating in the development of new APFC curriculum with other members of the APFC Curriculum and Advisory committee.
“John is very thoughtful and caring in his support and service to his crews, patients and families,” said Amelie Buchanan, board chair of APFC. “As the first-ever flight chaplain to take APFC’s curriculum, John is a tremendous student – he’s diligent, asks great questions and is dedicated to learning.”
John has completed 2, 9-week classes through APFC on theology of trauma and family systems.
“As the first staff chaplain to complete the curriculum, I provide APFC with feedback on what was helpful and what wasn’t as they continue to develop their programming,” he said.
John says it’s an honor to journey with people through both difficult times and joyous times.
“A mother once told me that she prayed en route to the hospital via Air Bear that a chaplain would be present when they arrived,” he said. “When I met her on the helipad she told me she felt it was a sign that God was with them.”