“You really have to be able to respond emotionally on a dime to whatever crisis situation presents itself,” says hospital chaplain Roxanne Cherry. (Photo by Jay Paul)
There’s more to being a hospital chaplain than walking into a room and offering a prayer. No one knows this better than Roxanne Cherry.
“While [Cherry] cannot ‘fix’ the pathology affecting [the patients], she can help guide them through difficult times with dignity and a maintained sense of self,” writes Dr. Ralph Layman, who nominated Cherry for a Special Honor in the Top Doctors survey.
Cherry is an advocate for the well-being and quality of life for patients and their families. “A lot of times doctors get a little too focused on the medical aspect of things,” Layman says. “She brings the focus back to the patient as a human being.”
Cherry says that is what each chaplain strives to do each day as they walk into complicated situations. “You really have to be able to respond emotionally on a dime to whatever crisis situation presents itself,” she says.
Cherry’s boss, Meg Helsley, describes her as an integral part of the care offered at Henrico Doctors’ Hospital. “What Roxanne really exemplifies in her work is that she is an incredibly intuitive person,” says Helsley, clinical nurse specialist in oncology and interim director of the cancer center. “She listens to the whole person and understands how to communicate in a way that is sensitive and compassionate.”
These qualities are especially useful for hospital work, as opposed to church work. “There is no preaching. There is no proselytizing,” Cherry says. “A hospital is all about the sick, the vulnerable, their families, oftentimes death and dying.”
Cherry, 63, learned she was comfortable in a hospital setting while working in the 1970s as a research assistant at a psychosocial oncology center in her native Rochester, New York. She re-embraced her Catholic faith after the death in 1990 of the child of a family friend.
Cherry had moved to Richmond in 1988. She earned a master’s in pastoral studies in 1999 from Loyola University in New Orleans through an extension program. She started working at Henrico Doctors’ Hospital after earning a master’s in patient counseling from Virginia Commonwealth University in 2002.
The chaplain has an exceptional ability to let people put their problems on her, according to Helsley. It’s all part of the job, Cherry says.
“The most rewarding thing is if at the end of the day, if I have been present, and I have stayed the course and not flinched and let people put their stuff right on me, that is a sacred trust,” she says. “That’s a good day.”