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Halifax Regional Health System celebrates Pastoral Care Week

Halifax Regional Health System joins other organizations and institutions throughout the world this week to recognize the spiritual care given to patients, families and staff through professional chaplaincy and pastoral counseling.

“Pastoral Care Week,” said Rev. Vance Midgett, manager of pastoral care services at Halifax Regional Hospital, “began in 1985 as a means to celebrate the practice of spiritual care given though chaplaincy and pastoral counseling. Here at Halifax Regional Hospital we have 18 associate chaplains who share on-call responsibilities to assure that our patients, their families and our staff have access to a chaplain 24/7.”

Halifax Regional Hospital’s Associate Chaplain Program was first organized in 1998.  The Rev. Melvin Bradshaw and the Rev. Jack Stewart, part of the original team, still serve today. 

“Many hospitals offer pastoral care services,” Midgett said. “But I believe that ours is unique. Not only do our associate chaplains give their expertise, but they give from their hearts.  We provide round the clock coverage and have chaplains assigned to specific areas including the ICU, Emergency Department, East 3 and our sub-acute unit. We have seen a lot of growth since the early days.”

“I feel it is appropriate to recognize Rev. Bradshaw’s accomplishments during this year’s Pastoral Care Week,” Midgett said, “as he has been such an influence not only here at the hospital but within the community as well.” 

Bradshaw’s long and distinguished career began in 1949 when he graduated from Southern Baptist Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky with a major in Pastoral Care and Counseling. For 25 years he worked as a missionary in Japan including serving as chaplain at Japan Baptist Hospital in Kyoto, Japan. During that time he also served as adjunct professor of pastoral care and counseling at Japan Baptist Seminary in Fukuoka, Japan. His experiences in Japan reinforced his belief that ministering to an individual’s personal needs is the greatest contribution anyone can make.

“Majoring in pastoral care and counseling was one of the best decisions I have ever made,” Bradshaw said. “It has served me well and given me a great deal of pleasure over the years.” 

After returning to the United States, Bradshaw became the chaplain for the Virginia Baptist Children’s Home and Family Services in Salem. During this time he ministered to dysfunctional families and damaged children as well as the home’s staff.  He served as pastor of Ebenezer Baptist Church in Naruna retiring in 1986. 

“I’m good at retiring,” he said. “I’ve done it five times. When you love doing something, it’s hard to stop.” 

It was in Lynchburg that his interest in hospice grew. He served as a volunteer and spiritual support person for Hospice of the Hills before becoming their first chaplain and served as hospice chaplain at Lynchburg General Hospital and Virginia Baptist Hospital in Lynchburg.  

He and his wife, Jean, moved to South Boston in 1990 where he worked for five years as director on missions for the Baptist Association.  In 1991 he founded and became director of Hospice Support Care of Southside Virginia, the area’s first and only volunteer organization whose mission was to assist terminally ill individuals and their families. He remained at the helm of that organization until 1999 when Halifax Regional Hospital partnered with Hospice Support Care to open a Medicare certified, state licensed hospice in affiliation with Halifax Home Health which is now known as Halifax Regional Hospice and Palliative Care. 

At that time hospice was staffed with one RN, one aide and had a daily census of two to four. These days the staff includes seven RNs, four aides, two social workers, one bereavement/volunteer coordinator, two part time medical directors and a daily census of 62. 

“Rev. Bradshaw has always been a hospice advocate,” said Carol Conner, manager of Halifax Regional Hospice and Palliative Care. “We would not be where we are today without his push.”

Rev. Bradshaw will turn 88 on Jan. 1. 

“I am blessed that there is still so much I am able to do,” he says. “I’m glad to be able to be up and about.”

He stays busy with his family, computer, Kindle and is a fan of Facebook, and he will be preaching at homecoming at New Hope Baptist Church in November. He credits his wife, Jean, for his success. 

“She’s one half of the pastor,” he said. “I have had a blessed and full life, and am very thankful for the opportunities God has given me to do what I feel very happy to do in my long life.”