What a Pediatric Chaplain Has Learned about Spiritual Needs from Seriously Ill Children and Their Families

Below view of happy children embracing each other and smiling at camera

Chaplain Mark Bartel, MDiv, BCC, Shares Truths from his Work in Palliative Care
By: Melanie Marshall

Even the people closest to Mark Bartel have a hard time understanding how he handles the heartbreak that comes with being a pediatric chaplain.

When he first entered the field, his wife worried how it might affect him and whether sadness would follow him home. His older brother put it more bluntly: “I know you’re doing important work, but I don’t ever want to hear about it. Don’t tell me anything.”

Now almost 30 years into his career, Bartel—who manages Spiritual Care at Arnold Palmer Medical Center in Orlando—has mastered the art of selective sharing. He’s seen plenty of happy endings, but arguably his most poignant cases are linked to his work in palliative care, supporting seriously ill or dying children and their families, as well as hospital colleagues caring for them.

Bartel said those experiences have affirmed his belief that we all have key spiritual needs central to our humanity: the need for beauty, integrity, faith, hope and love…

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