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A Poignant Moment

During the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, the world was struggling to grasp the magnitude of what was unfolding. Amidst the turmoil, I received a call that would forever change the course of my life. A family reached out to me for Vidui, the Jewish last rites, for their dying loved one who was in the hospital. They could not be present in the room due to pandemic restrictions and the patient was incapacitated. Worse, the hospital lacked not only Jewish chaplains but any chaplain at all to provide solace during such a crucial time.

As I offered the Vidui over the phone my heart weighed heavily with the sorrow of the family and the isolation of the patient. It was a stark moment that highlighted the profundity of human connection and the spiritual needs that often arise when we confront mortality. I realized that there was a pressing, immense need for compassionate spiritual care that was not being met throughout this time of global crisis.

The Spark of Inspiration

That poignant experience became the impetus for SpirituWell. It was clear that this was not an isolated case; across the globe, people were facing similar predicaments. Families were barred from being with their loved ones in their final moments. People were in dire need of spiritual guidance and comfort, and hospitals were woefully ill-equipped to meet these demands. The result was isolation – patients dying alone, without the presence of family or spiritual guidance. Those families felt alone too. The deprivation of a supporting hand, especially in the final moments of a loved one’s life, was a soul-crushing experience both for the patient and the family.

After seeing or hearing about this numerous times, it occurred to me: what if there were a way to ensure that no person had to be alone in their time of need, regardless of their faith or the availability of local chaplains? What if spiritual care could be accessible to all who sought it, at any time?

Continued Gaps in Care

The crisis of the pandemic revealed not merely a temporary lack of access to adequate spiritual care, but a systematic gap that I have witnessed over my 20+ years of chaplaincy experience: in the Navy, with police and fire departments, and as a chaplain to my congregants throughout healthcare settings. This is a systemic gap that continues to exist today.

Too often, health systems have a limited number of chaplains, concentrated within a small number of their facilities or unavailable at certain times of the day or days of the week. Rural hospitals often don’t have any chaplains at all. When chaplain teams are available, they often do not adequately represent the full spectrum of religious beliefs and spiritual orientations of their patients and families. Where it may have been the case that community clergy could augment needs, this is becoming increasingly difficult in practice and fails to recognize the importance of incorporating chaplains into care who have experience as part of the interdisciplinary care team.

SpirituWell was born out of the desire to bridge these gaps. By offering virtual chaplaincy services 24/7 with a highly diverse and qualified network of chaplains, we ensure that anyone, regardless of their location, situation, or religious affiliation, can connect with a chaplain whenever they need to.

SpirituWell: An Embodiment of Compassion and Care

Our aim is simple yet ambitious: to expand access to spiritual care and support to all, whenever and wherever they need it. We work with healthcare providers to expand their ability to offer spiritual care as a valuable resource across their service lines and points of care.

Importantly, SpirituWell is not intended to replace the invaluable services provided by existing in-person chaplains. Instead, we complement and augment their services. By serving as a supplementary resource, SpirituWell helps alleviate the burden on in-house chaplains, who are often spread too thin. This collaboration ensures that more patients, families, and healthcare professionals receive the spiritual care they need, without compromising the quality or personal touch that is essential in such services.

These past few years we have all learned to embrace technology for various aspects of life – from worship services to appointments with a primary care doctor or therapist. SpirituWell leverages this trend to serve our purpose. By using technology to facilitate virtual chaplaincy services, we remove geographical and logistical barriers while increasing access and convenience. This accessibility enables compassionate, interpersonal care that can transcend physical limitations, providing comfort and solace even when we’re not in the same location.

Through SpirituWell, individuals and families can connect with chaplains who provide comfort, support, and spiritual guidance. We help ensure that even if someone cannot be physically present with their loved ones or have access to a chaplain of their faith, they can still receive the spiritual care that is so vital in times of distress, crisis, or grief. SpirituWell is a testament to the adaptability and resilience of the human spirit. By providing equitable access to diverse and compassionate spiritual care, we address the desperate need that has been amplified by the pandemic and evident long before it.

In a world where the only constant is change, SpirituWell stands as a beacon of hope and a reminder of the powerful strength that lies within when spirituality and connectedness unite.

Avi Olitzky
Chief Spiritual & People Officer