|Bishop David Choby blesses the new patient prayer area at the Holy Family Health Center in South Nashville, which is operated by Saint Thomas Medical Partners. Photos by Andy Telli
At the Saint Thomas Medical Partners’ Holy Family Health Center in South Nashville, treating patients includes more than addressing their physical needs. Since the Daughters of Charity founded Saint Thomas Hospital in Nashville 117 years ago, they and their successors have been dedicated to meeting the spiritual, as well as the physical, needs of the people they care for.
Now, patients and staff at the Holy Family Health Center will have a small corner where they can take a moment to pray, to seek peace and spiritual strength.
On June 24, Bishop David Choby blessed a prayer station just inside the door of the Health Center, located on Edmonson Pike, near the intersection of Harding Place and Nolensville Pike.
“Prayer is a very essential part of our day,” said Sister Mary Diana Dreger, O.P., a Nashville Dominican who also is a medical doctor and the medical director of the center. “We wanted to provide a place for patients and staff to pray.”
“The rich history, the legacy of the Daughters of Charity compelled us,” said Cindy Smith, the nurse manager of the Health Center. “This prayer area will allow us to serve patients medically and spiritually.”
“To have this area as a reminder of prayer is particularly important to us,” Bishop Choby said before blessing the prayer station. “To set aside a space (for prayer) where we work is important particularly given our history as a Church and our work in health care.”
The Health Center is one of several clinics Saint Thomas operates to serve the poor and vulnerable in the community.
“Saint Thomas’ role is to provide highest quality care for all, particularly the poor and vulnerable,” said Margaret Dolan, president and chief executive officer of Saint Thomas Health Foundation, which supports the operations of the clinics. “Our network of clinics are our vehicle to provide quality care for the poor and vulnerable.”
The Holy Family Health Center has been in its current location since 2005, and the staff there sees about 1,200 patients a month, Smith said.
Besides offering primary care, the center also provides support services, behavioral health services, prenatal care and the services of a dietician two times a week, Smith explained. The center offers exercises classes, which the patients are encouraged to attend, and partners with their next-door neighbors, Catholic Charities of Tennessee and United Way to share facilities for classes and to refer clients to each other, she added.
The center provides a medical home for the poor and vulnerable in the South Nashville area, most of whom don’t have health insurance, Smith said. The center charges patients a small co-pay for services and they can set up a payment play to pay that if needed, she said.
The center, which is well supported by Saint Thomas Health and Saint Thomas Medical Partners, has a reputation in the community for providing excellent health care, Smith said, which has helped to grow the number of its patients.
That growth has left the center bursting at the seams and staff is examining options for expanding it at the current location, Smith said. “We want to do more. We know the community is expanding and we want to serve them.”
Previously, the center didn’t have a chapel or area designated for prayer, Smith said. “The legacy of the Daughters of Charity is to take care of the whole patient” and the prayer station provides “a place where patients can pray, reflect and connect with their God.”
Patricia Kyger and Carroll Crosslin, the co-chairs of the Vincentian Committee of the Saint Thomas Health Foundation Board of Directors, worked to secure the donated items for the prayer station. Among the donated items were:
• A statue of the Blessed Mother donated by Father John Sims Baker, the pastor of St. Mary’s Church in Downtown Nashville.
• A cross in the style of Saint Thomas Health’s logo, which hangs on the wall beside the Blessed Mother statue, donated by Smith.
• A kneeler donated by Bishop Choby.
• A credence table donated by Dell Crosslin and Dr. Kent Kyger.
• Rosaries that people are free to take, donated by St. Henry Church.
• Miraculous medals and pamphlets about the medals in both English and Spanish, donated by the Saint Thomas Health Foundation.
“It’s a station for healing prayer,” Kyger said.
“People already are using it,” Crosslin added.