Introducing… a chaplain

Introducing… a chaplain

John Vlainic is a chaplain at Hamilton General Hospital.

Favourite colour: purple / vacation spot: Croatia and Scotland / music: classical organ and hip-hop gospel / food: butterscotch pie

Tell us about your first day at HHS.
I was nervous, being the new boy on the block. But I found everyone welcoming. I remember the first patient I met that day. She was dying and afraid. I probed for her faith memory and was able to help her find things in her beliefs that gave her peace as she faced death.

What made you enter your field of work?
I have been a pastor/teacher most of my work life, the result of a combination of inner sense and encouragement by my faith community. Then, in a time of transition, two especially competent chaplains who had cared for friends of mine made me see chaplaincy as a great next chapter.

Describe your most challenging days at work.
Challenging days take several forms. One is being acutely aware that there were more patients with serious spiritual distress who needed me that day than I could even see. Another is when patients I have journeyed with for a long time have major setbacks or die.

What is one thing you wish your patients or colleagues knew about you?
I am committed deeply to walking with them and exploring what spiritual wholeness (or movement toward spiritual wellness) means for THEM. I am not here to do “religious” work with people who are not “religious.”

Do you have a best friend or confidant at HHS? Tell us about him/her.
I enjoy a great working relationship with my site colleague. We both do better work because we are teamed up. I know the other person is going to be honest and direct, and never undercut me. Our strengths really complement the other. In addition, I have a number of people at HHS who I consider to be my “friends” in ways that matter. The people I work with are a huge part of my job satisfaction.

What are your favourite ways to spend your free time?
I love working in my basement “shop” area. I also enjoy reading and doing research. I look forward to time every other weekend with our special-needs son, whether it be playing music on the stereo or making things together. I also do quite a bit of volunteer work.

Tell us about your most gratifying experience at HHS.
I go home most fulfilled after seeing someone who came into the hospital in deep despair now in a place where they have meaning and purpose in their lives. They are no longer defined by their physical condition. I can’t imagine anything better than that!