Meeting Spiritual Needs

Novant Health team member Chaplain Charles “Chan” Shaver provides meaningful support to patients, families and providers through spiritual care.

Meet Remarkable Team Member Chaplain Chan

Chaplain Charles “Chan” Shaver has a heart for palliative patient care.

It all started during his teenage years. Shaver’s grandfather was the youngest of 16 kids, so he had many elderly aunts and uncles to visit. He quickly fell in love with the simplicity of sitting with them and engaging in conversation.

Shaver didn’t return to this passion until a couple of decades later when, after 17 years in the banking industry, he uprooted his career and enrolled in seminary.

“I felt called into ministry at the age of 40,” Shaver said. “After seminary, I had opportunities to work at churches as an associate pastor and leading in spiritual and congregational care. I realized taking care of people, just supporting folks with love and care, is my gift.”

After graduating from seminary and working in associate pastor positions, Shaver started continuing education for hospital ministry. Last year, he was offered the chaplain role at Novant Health and was thrilled to return to his childhood experience of elderly care.

“Novant Health hired me to serve on several medical units, including the palliative care unit, and I absolutely love it. Engaging with the older generation is exactly where I’m meant to be at this time,” he said.

A Day in the Life of a Novant Health Chaplain

Shaver and his fellow chaplains respond to the spiritual care requests sent to them from doctors and nurses whose patients have expressed interest in receiving additional support. The requests vary from end-of-life care and spiritual guidance to prayer requests and providing meal vouchers.

“As chaplains, we answer the calls of people who practice many different faiths –– various Christian denominations, Catholicism, Hinduism, Judaism –– just about every faith. Our goal is to support them in whatever way makes them feel most comfortable,” he said. “Sometimes that means prayer, and sometimes that means just having a tender and caring conversation with the person who needs it.”

Chaplains also respond when patients pass away. In those moments, they bring comfort to the families or loved ones of the patient.

Recently, Novant Health implemented “code lavender,” which is a request for chaplains to respond to Novant Health team members who are struggling.

“There has been a lot of additional stress because of the pandemic — so much to be unsure about and many more intense patient interactions,” Shaver said. “We try to provide the staff with comfort and meet their needs in a moment of stress, anxiety or fear.”

The Impact of Spiritual Care

Shaver’s chaplain duties are steeped in purpose, and his interactions with patients, families and providers remind him of the value of spiritual care in a healthcare system each and every day.

Chaplains distribute meal vouchers to families who need extra care and attention while their loved one is being treated. The meal voucher program is funded by the generous donors who contribute through Novant Health Foundation.

“Providing meal vouchers, which is a seemingly small gesture, can make such a difference in someone’s experience,” he said. “I recently spoke with a woman whose 50-year-old son was in the hospital due to complications with Down syndrome. She wanted to stay at his bedside and her mobility was limited, so I took the voucher and retrieved the meal for her. It was a small gesture, but she was so grateful. Anything we can do to make someone’s day a bit easier makes a meaningful impact.”

Shaver shared a profound spiritual experience he had recently while tending to a family whose loved one had passed away.

“As the patient was nearing end-of-life, there was a quietness in the room. I was praying and felt called to ask the family members if their loved one liked Elvis Presley. They said he did. I took out my phone and played ‘Peace in the Valley’ by Elvis, and it brought comfort to the very sad silence we were experiencing before,” Shaver said. “It was a special moment between the family, their loved one, the doctor in the room and myself –– one I will never forget.”

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You can support the spiritual care team with a gift through Novant Health Forsyth Medical Center. Your generous contribution, no matter the amount, provides meaningful support and care to patients, families and providers in need.

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