A Chaplain's Painful Rite of Passage


"Everything's quiet." "Everything's cool." "Don't worry--if we need you, we can page you." One by one, the late-night nurses for each intensive-care unit politely tell Michael Baker to get lost. Baker understands. "Basically," he shrugs, "the staff doesn't know me from Adam's house cat."

Baker is a chaplain, a new one. Chaplains train at DUMC much as doctors do. There are interns like Baker, residents, supervisors and administrators. But while medical interns spend years in painstaking study of death's repertoire of plague, bone break and bodily corruption, the chaplaincy interns are Duke Divinity School students. They learn on the job.


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