Sunday, August 19, 2012

Being Professional, Interfaith, and Accessible

Do you think this could look like a chaplain you'd want to talk to, if you or a relative or friend was in the hospital?  

One of the things I've been thinking about and worrying about lately has been my head covering and my soon-to-be job.  I don't know the ethnic break-down at the hospital where I'll be doing my residency as a chaplain, or how they will respond to a woman in a tichel, or to a female rabbi, or to a female rabbi in a tichel.  It all depends on perspective- what is a strange/exotic ethnic practice to one is immodest and insufficiently covering to another.

When I last did CPE (clinical pastoral education), I was wearing kippot, mostly, especially while at work (I did headbands/scarves on my off-time).  They served as my "look, I'm a religious professional" marker.  It was mostly for myself, since many of my patients didn't really know much about Jews- I was mistaken for a Mennonite a few times.

So this will be an experimental process.  I really don't know whether this will be a factor I need to deal with in being an accessible presence for patients and staff or not.

I do know that my "Orthodox" appearance prompted a concerned question or two from my soon-to-be supervisor, during my interview.  I don't know what that says about the culture of the place where I'll be working and learning.

I am afraid that I will need to adapt my practice in ways that make me uncomfortable, in order to be professional.  I don't think I should need to, but there's that little niggling fear that says "maybe it's too foreign looking for non-Jews to feel comfortable with".  It's just one piece of "new job" anxiety- but I needed to acknowledge it separately, so here we are.

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