Sister Kim Marie and the Practice of Presence in the ICU

KimMarieSister Kim Marie Jordan begins her morning rounds as a social worker at St. Joseph’s Medical Center with a chart full of patients that have illnesses and injuries serious enough to land them on the hospital’s most critical care floors.

She meets with a comprehensive team that includes doctors, nutritionists, and physical therapists — working to ensure that each patient in the 9-bed Intensive Care Unit and 11-bed Progressive Care Unit has a safe and appropriate transition from hospital to home. She assesses social problems and basic needs that include transitional care, rehabilitation, poverty issues, complex medical care and more.

“The work is how to get people what they need to go home, have a safe place to live, and deal with trauma,” Sister Kim Marie explains. “It’s frustrating because of the lack of services we have in the valley. There are very few resources here but we do the best we can.”

She points on that there is no homeless shelter in the Clearwater Valley and people in Idaho cannot get Medicaid unless they are a child, pregnant, or have a disability. She notes that the state has cut back on food stamps and other programs that help the needy.

Though these larger issues keep her busy, it’s the moment-to-moment interactions with patients that bring the most meaning. She has helped patients and families navigate major life changes including end-of-life issues. “When I can personally interact with patients, that shows them I care,” she says. “To just talk, just listen…to sit with the patient’s family: These interactions inspire me. I assure them we will help them. They don’t have to row the boat alone.”

Sister Kim Marie finds support for her work from her Benedictine community including Sister Margie Schmidt who is the Director of Pastoral Care at St. Joseph’s Medical Center. When Sister Kim Marie is not working she spends restorative time in silence, prayer, and spiritual reading.

“It’s high energy/high stress work,” she says. “Nothing in school can prepare you for this work. It’s painful, rewarding, exhausting. It’s the most challenging job I have ever had and I feel very blessed to be here. I have no intention of retiring.”

Sister Kim Marie finds resonance between the Benedictine values of her monastic community and the ethical code of her profession. “We celebrate all guests as Christ. How we as social workers treat others is very Benedictine. The community here at the hospital is very Benedictine. Doctors, nurses, cafeteria workers, environmental services…we all have a role that contributes to the whole.”

Read more about Sister Kim Marie Jordan