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The background image is A woman holding a clipboard looks at a boy lying on a gurney being wheeled from a hospital room.

The night shift: 7 p.m. to 8 a.m.

  • 7:21 p.m.
  • 7:49 p.m.
  • 8:15 p.m.
  • 8:45 p.m.
  • 9:25 p.m.
  • 10 p.m.
  • 10:15 p.m.
  • 10:53 p.m.
  • 11:55 p.m.
  • 12:15 a.m.
  • 12:17 a.m.
  • 12:35 a.m.
  • 12:40 a.m.
  • 12:45 a.m.
  • 1 a.m.
  • 1:25 a.m.
  • 1:35 a.m.
  • 1:55 a.m.
  • 2:25 a.m.
  • 3:25 a.m.
  • 4 a.m.
  • 6 a.m.
  • 7:45 a.m.
  • 7:55 a.m.

7:21 p.m.

Susan Scott waits in the hallway outside the trauma bay for an incoming patient. It’s a Level III trauma. In Pennsylvania, that’s the least severe. This time it’s a 12-year-old boy.

She is an intern, taking a step toward a degree from United Lutheran Seminary in Gettysburg. She never expected to land in an emergency room.

The job has elements more tangible than simply providing spiritual comfort. Often, she serves as a go-between with doctors and patients’ families, gathering what information she can and relaying it for doctors who are too busy saving lives to update people desperate for every shred of information. She also helps track down families.

Paramedics wheel the boy in on a gurney. His mother and father are there. The mother is in tears.

Scott ducks with the gurney and entourage into the first trauma bay. Painted on the floor, a red line covers the perimeter of the room, creating a thin band of floor between the line and the wall. Medical professionals work inside the red line. Anyone not directly involved in treating the patient is supposed to stay outside the line.

Scott stands on the outside of the red line, jotting notes onto a pad.

Pictured:
Chaplain intern Susan Scott holds the door open as 12-year-old Colin Barto is brought into the trauma bay.

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The night shift: 7 p.m. to 8 a.m.

  • 7:21 p.m.
  • 7:49 p.m.
  • 8:15 p.m.
  • 8:45 p.m.
  • 9:25 p.m.
  • 10 p.m.
  • 10:15 p.m.
  • 10:53 p.m.
  • 11:55 p.m.
  • 12:15 a.m.
  • 12:17 a.m.
  • 12:35 a.m.
  • 12:40 a.m.
  • 12:45 a.m.
  • 1 a.m.
  • 1:25 a.m.
  • 1:35 a.m.
  • 1:55 a.m.
  • 2:25 a.m.
  • 3:25 a.m.
  • 4 a.m.
  • 6 a.m.
  • 7:45 a.m.
  • 7:55 a.m.

7:49 p.m.

When she walks out of the trauma bay, a young man in khaki trousers and a pinstriped shirt is waiting with a smile. Troy Spencer, another intern in Pastoral Services, is Scott’s relief, and he’s just arrived for his 8 p.m. to 8 a.m. shift.

“I have not been in the office since 4:30,” she tells him.

“Oh,” he says. “Yikes.”

She tells him the boy’s name ― he broke his leg playing baseball, Scott has learned ― and points out his parents, then heads off to finish the last of her paperwork.

The background image is Shown from behind, a man holds a phone to his ear as he walks through a hospital corridor.

The night shift: 7 p.m. to 8 a.m.

  • 7:21 p.m.
  • 7:49 p.m.
  • 8:15 p.m.
  • 8:45 p.m.
  • 9:25 p.m.
  • 10 p.m.
  • 10:15 p.m.
  • 10:53 p.m.
  • 11:55 p.m.
  • 12:15 a.m.
  • 12:17 a.m.
  • 12:35 a.m.
  • 12:40 a.m.
  • 12:45 a.m.
  • 1 a.m.
  • 1:25 a.m.
  • 1:35 a.m.
  • 1:55 a.m.
  • 2:25 a.m.
  • 3:25 a.m.
  • 4 a.m.
  • 6 a.m.
  • 7:45 a.m.
  • 7:55 a.m.

8:15 p.m.

Spencer goes to the office to hear about Scott’s day. They’re talking when his pager emits a series of beeps.

He dials a number. “Chaplain on call. This is Troy.”

An attendant at the emergency room tells him about a 54-year-old woman who has attempted suicide by drug overdose. Spencer is asked to meet the woman’s daughter.

He starts off toward the emergency room when he’s paged again. This time, it’s hospital security. A man who’d been waiting in the emergency room has wandered off. He’s currently stalking around the hospital in tears. Could Spencer help?

Spencer veers off from the emergency room toward the main entrance to the hospital. He comes upon a man pacing. Nearby, a security guard keeps his distance.

Spencer asks the man if he’d like to talk. The two sit on a bench. Around them hospital staff and patients walk past, talking and laughing. Children play.

The man and Spencer speak quietly. Eventually, the man relaxes. He chuckles. A nurse is summoned and takes the man back to the emergency room in a wheelchair.

Pictured:
Troy Spencer, a chaplain intern, receives a call to alert him to an incident in the trauma bay in the Emergency Department during a recent overnight shift.

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37
minutes spent on average per visit
January - December 2020

The background image is A man is sitting at a desk, on the phone. There is a mylar balloon that says "Hang in there."

The night shift: 7 p.m. to 8 a.m.

  • 7:21 p.m.
  • 7:49 p.m.
  • 8:15 p.m.
  • 8:45 p.m.
  • 9:25 p.m.
  • 10 p.m.
  • 10:15 p.m.
  • 10:53 p.m.
  • 11:55 p.m.
  • 12:15 a.m.
  • 12:17 a.m.
  • 12:35 a.m.
  • 12:40 a.m.
  • 12:45 a.m.
  • 1 a.m.
  • 1:25 a.m.
  • 1:35 a.m.
  • 1:55 a.m.
  • 2:25 a.m.
  • 3:25 a.m.
  • 4 a.m.
  • 6 a.m.
  • 7:45 a.m.
  • 7:55 a.m.

8:45 p.m.

Spencer returns to the chaplains’ office for paperwork. He’s done a “spiritual risk assessment” with the wandering man, he explains.

“You find out what they’re grieving about, what’s going on,” he says. “Our job is not to fix. Our job is not to heal. Healing is the medical staff. We’re there just to be present. In the middle of what’s going on. All we can do is be with people.”

Sometimes, when he first meets someone, Spencer puts his hand over his ID badge, which identifies him as a chaplain.

It isn’t a ruse. Spencer tells every patient exactly who he is and why he’s there. But sometimes, people panic when they see a chaplain, he explains.

Spencer is 23. Now in his final year at a seminary in Chicago, he took the internship because he felt it might make him more well-rounded. Every weekend for months, he has covered 12-hour shifts, comforting the dying and their families, standing with survivors facing down their own mortality, deescalating the angry and the drug-addled, people who scream and curse, tracking down family members to give them bad news.

“I go to sleep exhausted,” he says. “I wake up tired.”

Pictured:
Troy Spencer leaves a phone message for the family member of a patient who was brought into the Emergency Department during Spencer’s overnight shift.

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The night shift: 7 p.m. to 8 a.m.

  • 7:21 p.m.
  • 7:49 p.m.
  • 8:15 p.m.
  • 8:45 p.m.
  • 9:25 p.m.
  • 10 p.m.
  • 10:15 p.m.
  • 10:53 p.m.
  • 11:55 p.m.
  • 12:15 a.m.
  • 12:17 a.m.
  • 12:35 a.m.
  • 12:40 a.m.
  • 12:45 a.m.
  • 1 a.m.
  • 1:25 a.m.
  • 1:35 a.m.
  • 1:55 a.m.
  • 2:25 a.m.
  • 3:25 a.m.
  • 4 a.m.
  • 6 a.m.
  • 7:45 a.m.
  • 7:55 a.m.

9:25 p.m.

Spencer’s pager chirps. This time it’s a heart attack.

After a short wait outside the trauma bay, paramedics arrive rolling a man on a gurney. His unbuttoned shirt puddles around him as, glassy-eyed, he gasps for breath. Spencer slips in behind him as paramedics close the door.

A few moments later, he returns to the hall and is startled to see another scrum of paramedics and a 3-year-old child. The child’s head is bandaged. Her mother walks with the paramedics,  holding the girl’s hand. Attached to the gurney is a glove blown up a like a balloon with a face drawn on it.

They wheel the toddler into the bay next to the heart attack victim. Spencer goes back and forth through an adjoining door, always swerving to stay out of the way and behind the red line. He tracks details on a notepad.

The mother strokes the child’s hair. She has a cell phone in her lap to keep her occupied. Doctors remove the bandage, revealing a jagged wound.

As doctors treat her, the little girl begins to sob. With each wail, Spencer’s hands tighten into fists.

“You feel like you’re too big for the space you’re given,” he says.

The night shift: 7 p.m. to 8 a.m.

  • 7:21 p.m.
  • 7:49 p.m.
  • 8:15 p.m.
  • 8:45 p.m.
  • 9:25 p.m.
  • 10 p.m.
  • 10:15 p.m.
  • 10:53 p.m.
  • 11:55 p.m.
  • 12:15 a.m.
  • 12:17 a.m.
  • 12:35 a.m.
  • 12:40 a.m.
  • 12:45 a.m.
  • 1 a.m.
  • 1:25 a.m.
  • 1:35 a.m.
  • 1:55 a.m.
  • 2:25 a.m.
  • 3:25 a.m.
  • 4 a.m.
  • 6 a.m.
  • 7:45 a.m.
  • 7:55 a.m.

10 p.m.

Spencer walks with the little girl and her mother to the room where the girl will spend the night. The mother is careworn, but not hysterical. She tells Spencer the girl was on her way to a birthday party when she fell and hit her head.

As they walk, Spencer’s pager goes off again.

Trauma. Level I.

The background image is A man in a striped shirt and khakis stands in a hospital room, exchanging a smile with a woman standing next to a bed, in which lies a child. A rubber glove blown up like a balloon is at the side of the child, whose head is bandaged.

The night shift: 7 p.m. to 8 a.m.

  • 7:21 p.m.
  • 7:49 p.m.
  • 8:15 p.m.
  • 8:45 p.m.
  • 9:25 p.m.
  • 10 p.m.
  • 10:15 p.m.
  • 10:53 p.m.
  • 11:55 p.m.
  • 12:15 a.m.
  • 12:17 a.m.
  • 12:35 a.m.
  • 12:40 a.m.
  • 12:45 a.m.
  • 1 a.m.
  • 1:25 a.m.
  • 1:35 a.m.
  • 1:55 a.m.
  • 2:25 a.m.
  • 3:25 a.m.
  • 4 a.m.
  • 6 a.m.
  • 7:45 a.m.
  • 7:55 a.m.

10:15 p.m.

He returns his focus to the mother as they wheel the little girl into a brightly colored room. After they’ve settled, he walks quickly toward the emergency department where another seriously injured person is due to arrive. On the way, he receives a call from the heart patient’s wife.

The heart patient, he learns, has been transferred to a catheter lab. When the wife arrives, he will meet her and guide her to the right location.

Pictured:
Troy Spencer checks in with Tryee Coy, whose daughter, Jaycee, 3, was brought to the Emergency Department with a head injury.

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931
brain attack encounters
January - December 2020

The background image is Troy in trauma bay

The night shift: 7 p.m. to 8 a.m.

  • 7:21 p.m.
  • 7:49 p.m.
  • 8:15 p.m.
  • 8:45 p.m.
  • 9:25 p.m.
  • 10 p.m.
  • 10:15 p.m.
  • 10:53 p.m.
  • 11:55 p.m.
  • 12:15 a.m.
  • 12:17 a.m.
  • 12:35 a.m.
  • 12:40 a.m.
  • 12:45 a.m.
  • 1 a.m.
  • 1:25 a.m.
  • 1:35 a.m.
  • 1:55 a.m.
  • 2:25 a.m.
  • 3:25 a.m.
  • 4 a.m.
  • 6 a.m.
  • 7:45 a.m.
  • 7:55 a.m.

10:53 p.m.

When he returns to Trauma, the mood has tightened. In the first bay, the men and women inside the red line speak in clipped, technical phrases.

Spencer gathers what he can in the hallway. It’s a motorcycle accident, he learns from social workers, nurses and administrators rushing past. A 55-year-old man.

Pasted to the door next to the bay is sign on which someone has written, “Trauma Fairview.” Before an accident victim can be admitted to the Medical Center, before medical record numbers are assigned to the mountain of paperwork generated by the care team, the event is given an arbitrary word to identify it.

The patient’s identity comes later. Finding out who he is and who needs to know what’s happening is part of Spencer’s job.

Outside the bay, the customary emergency department maelstrom dims. Voices hush. Inessential movement ceases. Even the stream of phone calls seems to slow. The whole world gives way to Trauma Bay 1 and what’s coming.

“I think I hear a helicopter,” someone says, and then the chopping sound drifts overhead.

“Level 1, Bay One,” a public address system proclaims.

A cluster of people pushing a gurney appears at the far end of the hallway. Spencer presses his back to a wall as paramedics wheel past him.

On the gurney, the man’s face is red. It is slack. His eyes are closed.

The team rolls the man through the trauma bay doors. Spencer ducks in.

Outside, the administrators are already trying to ascertain his identity. A paramedic has announced the name before entering the bay, but no one is really sure they caught it. Moments later, an admin walks down the hall and requests it again – someone on the phone is asking for the man.

Spencer emerges from the operating room, scribbling onto his notepad. Everyone is still searching for something definitive.

It arrives within minutes. A paramedic walks out of the emergency room and places a plastic card he’s taken from the man into Spencer’s hand.

His driver’s license.

Pictured:
Troy Spencer, left, takes notes as Penn State Health Life Lion EMS flight nurse Dan Barber, right, calls out information of the patient brought into the trauma bay of the Emergency Department.

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1,918
spiritual risk screen consults
January - December 2020

The background image is A man stands in a small room with a desk and a bed with drawn curtains. He pulls back the blanket from the bed.

The night shift: 7 p.m. to 8 a.m.

  • 7:21 p.m.
  • 7:49 p.m.
  • 8:15 p.m.
  • 8:45 p.m.
  • 9:25 p.m.
  • 10 p.m.
  • 10:15 p.m.
  • 10:53 p.m.
  • 11:55 p.m.
  • 12:15 a.m.
  • 12:17 a.m.
  • 12:35 a.m.
  • 12:40 a.m.
  • 12:45 a.m.
  • 1 a.m.
  • 1:25 a.m.
  • 1:35 a.m.
  • 1:55 a.m.
  • 2:25 a.m.
  • 3:25 a.m.
  • 4 a.m.
  • 6 a.m.
  • 7:45 a.m.
  • 7:55 a.m.

11:55 p.m.

For the time being, there is a lull. Spencer decides to get some rest. He’s still waiting to hear from family members of the motorcycle accident.

The chaplains have designated a closet-sized room just off the chapel to serve as a place to bed down. A couch transforms into a bed. He sets the alarm on his cell phone for 6 a.m. If he makes it that long, he’ll get up then and check in on the status of his various case.

Pictured:
Troy Spencer preps the pullout couch for a rest.

View full photo

The night shift: 7 p.m. to 8 a.m.

  • 7:21 p.m.
  • 7:49 p.m.
  • 8:15 p.m.
  • 8:45 p.m.
  • 9:25 p.m.
  • 10 p.m.
  • 10:15 p.m.
  • 10:53 p.m.
  • 11:55 p.m.
  • 12:15 a.m.
  • 12:17 a.m.
  • 12:35 a.m.
  • 12:40 a.m.
  • 12:45 a.m.
  • 1 a.m.
  • 1:25 a.m.
  • 1:35 a.m.
  • 1:55 a.m.
  • 2:25 a.m.
  • 3:25 a.m.
  • 4 a.m.
  • 6 a.m.
  • 7:45 a.m.
  • 7:55 a.m.

12:15 a.m.

About 15 minutes later, the pager goes off again. He’s summoned to the Surgical Anesthesia Intensive Care Unit (SAICU) on the second floor.

The background image is A woman in a lab coat talks with a man in a hospital hallway.

The night shift: 7 p.m. to 8 a.m.

  • 7:21 p.m.
  • 7:49 p.m.
  • 8:15 p.m.
  • 8:45 p.m.
  • 9:25 p.m.
  • 10 p.m.
  • 10:15 p.m.
  • 10:53 p.m.
  • 11:55 p.m.
  • 12:15 a.m.
  • 12:17 a.m.
  • 12:35 a.m.
  • 12:40 a.m.
  • 12:45 a.m.
  • 1 a.m.
  • 1:25 a.m.
  • 1:35 a.m.
  • 1:55 a.m.
  • 2:25 a.m.
  • 3:25 a.m.
  • 4 a.m.
  • 6 a.m.
  • 7:45 a.m.
  • 7:55 a.m.

12:17 a.m.

Spencer turns the corner and finds the motorcycle accident victim has been transferred to a room at the end of the hall. He has a conversation with a grim-faced doctor. The man’s status has changed. Spencer needs to track down the man’s next of kin as quickly as possible.

He heads back to the Emergency Department on the first floor to speak with the woman who earlier had fielded a call from someone in the motorcycle accident victim’s family.

As he tries to get the number, his pager goes off again.

Another Level I Trauma is on its way.

“We’re in the right place,” he says.

Pictured:
Troy Spencer gets an update on a patient from Dr. Karima Fitzgerald in the hallways of the Emergency Department.

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The night shift: 7 p.m. to 8 a.m.

  • 7:21 p.m.
  • 7:49 p.m.
  • 8:15 p.m.
  • 8:45 p.m.
  • 9:25 p.m.
  • 10 p.m.
  • 10:15 p.m.
  • 10:53 p.m.
  • 11:55 p.m.
  • 12:15 a.m.
  • 12:17 a.m.
  • 12:35 a.m.
  • 12:40 a.m.
  • 12:45 a.m.
  • 1 a.m.
  • 1:25 a.m.
  • 1:35 a.m.
  • 1:55 a.m.
  • 2:25 a.m.
  • 3:25 a.m.
  • 4 a.m.
  • 6 a.m.
  • 7:45 a.m.
  • 7:55 a.m.

12:35 a.m.

As he waits for another seriously injured person to arrive, Spencer receives word that someone asking for the motorcycle victim has just walked into the Emergency Department waiting room.

A blonde woman is seated in the waiting room. Her eyes are red. Spencer walks with her to the SAICU waiting room.

As they walk, an intercom says, “Level I, arriving Bay One.”

The night shift: 7 p.m. to 8 a.m.

  • 7:21 p.m.
  • 7:49 p.m.
  • 8:15 p.m.
  • 8:45 p.m.
  • 9:25 p.m.
  • 10 p.m.
  • 10:15 p.m.
  • 10:53 p.m.
  • 11:55 p.m.
  • 12:15 a.m.
  • 12:17 a.m.
  • 12:35 a.m.
  • 12:40 a.m.
  • 12:45 a.m.
  • 1 a.m.
  • 1:25 a.m.
  • 1:35 a.m.
  • 1:55 a.m.
  • 2:25 a.m.
  • 3:25 a.m.
  • 4 a.m.
  • 6 a.m.
  • 7:45 a.m.
  • 7:55 a.m.

12:40 a.m.

The woman, he learns, is the motorcycle accident victim’s ex-wife. He offers her a cushioned chair, huddles with her to speak briefly, then speed-walks from the waiting room to the operating room where doctors are working on the motorcycle victim.

A moment later, he returns to the waiting room and tells the ex-wife that doctors will be with her shortly.

The background image is Troy with Registration

The night shift: 7 p.m. to 8 a.m.

  • 7:21 p.m.
  • 7:49 p.m.
  • 8:15 p.m.
  • 8:45 p.m.
  • 9:25 p.m.
  • 10 p.m.
  • 10:15 p.m.
  • 10:53 p.m.
  • 11:55 p.m.
  • 12:15 a.m.
  • 12:17 a.m.
  • 12:35 a.m.
  • 12:40 a.m.
  • 12:45 a.m.
  • 1 a.m.
  • 1:25 a.m.
  • 1:35 a.m.
  • 1:55 a.m.
  • 2:25 a.m.
  • 3:25 a.m.
  • 4 a.m.
  • 6 a.m.
  • 7:45 a.m.
  • 7:55 a.m.

12:45 a.m.

Spencer runs down the stairs and back to the Emergency Department for his incoming trauma.

At Bay One, he finds another woman in the hallway. She is pale.

He covers his ID with his right hand but introduces himself, anyway: “I’m Troy. I’m a chaplain.”

The woman whispers to him.

“No, no,” he says to her. “I respond to all the traumas.”

He guides her to the small room the emergency staff uses for families across from the trauma bays.

Pictured:
Troy Spencer gathers information from the registration area outside of the trauma bay in the Emergency Department.

View full photo

The night shift: 7 p.m. to 8 a.m.

  • 7:21 p.m.
  • 7:49 p.m.
  • 8:15 p.m.
  • 8:45 p.m.
  • 9:25 p.m.
  • 10 p.m.
  • 10:15 p.m.
  • 10:53 p.m.
  • 11:55 p.m.
  • 12:15 a.m.
  • 12:17 a.m.
  • 12:35 a.m.
  • 12:40 a.m.
  • 12:45 a.m.
  • 1 a.m.
  • 1:25 a.m.
  • 1:35 a.m.
  • 1:55 a.m.
  • 2:25 a.m.
  • 3:25 a.m.
  • 4 a.m.
  • 6 a.m.
  • 7:45 a.m.
  • 7:55 a.m.

1 a.m.

From the staff, Spencer learns it was a stabbing. A police officer is there.

“We’ve bought some time upstairs,” he says, thinking of the motorcycle victim. The ex-wife has agreed to use her cell phone to reach out to the victim’s family.

He goes into the consultation room with the wife of the stabbing victim, who has requested that he pray with her.

Despite the running and adrenaline rushing through his system, Spencer’s voice is practically a flat line. “A non-anxious presence,” he says. “That’s the goal.”

The background image is A man stands against a wall in a hospital hallway and presses his fingers against his cheek.

The night shift: 7 p.m. to 8 a.m.

  • 7:21 p.m.
  • 7:49 p.m.
  • 8:15 p.m.
  • 8:45 p.m.
  • 9:25 p.m.
  • 10 p.m.
  • 10:15 p.m.
  • 10:53 p.m.
  • 11:55 p.m.
  • 12:15 a.m.
  • 12:17 a.m.
  • 12:35 a.m.
  • 12:40 a.m.
  • 12:45 a.m.
  • 1 a.m.
  • 1:25 a.m.
  • 1:35 a.m.
  • 1:55 a.m.
  • 2:25 a.m.
  • 3:25 a.m.
  • 4 a.m.
  • 6 a.m.
  • 7:45 a.m.
  • 7:55 a.m.

1:25 a.m.

He reemerges from the consultation room. He leans against the wall next to the door and runs his palm down his face.

To preserve each patient’s privacy, Spencer doesn’t tell his family or friends specifics. The silence can be isolating. He joins the various groups and care-for-the-caregivers program Hershey’s Pastoral Services Department offers. He journals. He pets his cat, Hank. He’s taken up jogging and has lost a lot of weight.

Still, Spencer is considering hospital chaplain as a job after graduation.

“I’ll tell you what, the opportunity to walk with people in the dark places,” he says. “The wilderness. The unknown. It’s a very sacred thing. People are very vulnerable when they get here.”

Pictured:
With little sleep due to a non-stop overnight shift, Troy Spencer tries to gather his thoughts.

View full photo

The night shift: 7 p.m. to 8 a.m.

  • 7:21 p.m.
  • 7:49 p.m.
  • 8:15 p.m.
  • 8:45 p.m.
  • 9:25 p.m.
  • 10 p.m.
  • 10:15 p.m.
  • 10:53 p.m.
  • 11:55 p.m.
  • 12:15 a.m.
  • 12:17 a.m.
  • 12:35 a.m.
  • 12:40 a.m.
  • 12:45 a.m.
  • 1 a.m.
  • 1:25 a.m.
  • 1:35 a.m.
  • 1:55 a.m.
  • 2:25 a.m.
  • 3:25 a.m.
  • 4 a.m.
  • 6 a.m.
  • 7:45 a.m.
  • 7:55 a.m.

1:35 a.m.

The doctor from the SAICU calls about the motorcycle victim. The prognosis is grim. What’s the status on the family? Spencer says he’s still searching. He calls Pennsylvania State Police, who promise to keep him updated.

The night shift: 7 p.m. to 8 a.m.

  • 7:21 p.m.
  • 7:49 p.m.
  • 8:15 p.m.
  • 8:45 p.m.
  • 9:25 p.m.
  • 10 p.m.
  • 10:15 p.m.
  • 10:53 p.m.
  • 11:55 p.m.
  • 12:15 a.m.
  • 12:17 a.m.
  • 12:35 a.m.
  • 12:40 a.m.
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  • 1 a.m.
  • 1:25 a.m.
  • 1:35 a.m.
  • 1:55 a.m.
  • 2:25 a.m.
  • 3:25 a.m.
  • 4 a.m.
  • 6 a.m.
  • 7:45 a.m.
  • 7:55 a.m.

1:55 a.m.

Spencer returns to the SAICU waiting room to talk with the ex-wife of the motorcycle accident victim. He sits in a chair next to her and leans toward her with his hands clasped in his lap. He listens as she tells stories about him.

She’d tried the victim’s brother, but the number dumped into a full voice mailbox, so she couldn’t leave a message. She gives him phone numbers from her of other family members.

“I care about him,” she says, tears spilling down her cheeks.

“I can tell,” Spencer says, softly.

There is a pause.

“How can I best be with you?” he asks.

“I’m fine.”

“You don’t have to be.”

The background image is Seven heath care workers stand in a hospital hallway. They surround a seated man who speaks on the phone.

The night shift: 7 p.m. to 8 a.m.

  • 7:21 p.m.
  • 7:49 p.m.
  • 8:15 p.m.
  • 8:45 p.m.
  • 9:25 p.m.
  • 10 p.m.
  • 10:15 p.m.
  • 10:53 p.m.
  • 11:55 p.m.
  • 12:15 a.m.
  • 12:17 a.m.
  • 12:35 a.m.
  • 12:40 a.m.
  • 12:45 a.m.
  • 1 a.m.
  • 1:25 a.m.
  • 1:35 a.m.
  • 1:55 a.m.
  • 2:25 a.m.
  • 3:25 a.m.
  • 4 a.m.
  • 6 a.m.
  • 7:45 a.m.
  • 7:55 a.m.

2:25 a.m.

Spencer decides to head back to his makeshift bedroom. As he lies down, the phone rings.

It’s Security. Some visitors had come in looking for the motorcycle victim, but they left. Spencer pages the doctor. He’s paged again 30 minutes later to help de-escalate a patient shouting profanity on the fourth floor.

Pictured:
Troy Spencer, right, joins other members of the behavioral response team during a 3 a.m. incident with a patient.

View full photo

The night shift: 7 p.m. to 8 a.m.

  • 7:21 p.m.
  • 7:49 p.m.
  • 8:15 p.m.
  • 8:45 p.m.
  • 9:25 p.m.
  • 10 p.m.
  • 10:15 p.m.
  • 10:53 p.m.
  • 11:55 p.m.
  • 12:15 a.m.
  • 12:17 a.m.
  • 12:35 a.m.
  • 12:40 a.m.
  • 12:45 a.m.
  • 1 a.m.
  • 1:25 a.m.
  • 1:35 a.m.
  • 1:55 a.m.
  • 2:25 a.m.
  • 3:25 a.m.
  • 4 a.m.
  • 6 a.m.
  • 7:45 a.m.
  • 7:55 a.m.

3:25 a.m.

Then comes the call from Neuro Critical Care. The dying man.

The woman wants to pray, but she isn’t sure how.

“Even though she requested a chaplain, you never know people’s backgrounds,” he explains later. “Sometimes people have experienced religious trauma. So I ask.”

Spencer lays his hand next to the patient’s hand and holds the woman’s hand, and the two bow their heads to pray. He is careful not to inject too many of his own theological beliefs into the prayer.

God, Spencer believes, doesn’t promise that everything is going to be OK. Instead, He promises that He will be present in all things – both good and bad.

The night shift: 7 p.m. to 8 a.m.

  • 7:21 p.m.
  • 7:49 p.m.
  • 8:15 p.m.
  • 8:45 p.m.
  • 9:25 p.m.
  • 10 p.m.
  • 10:15 p.m.
  • 10:53 p.m.
  • 11:55 p.m.
  • 12:15 a.m.
  • 12:17 a.m.
  • 12:35 a.m.
  • 12:40 a.m.
  • 12:45 a.m.
  • 1 a.m.
  • 1:25 a.m.
  • 1:35 a.m.
  • 1:55 a.m.
  • 2:25 a.m.
  • 3:25 a.m.
  • 4 a.m.
  • 6 a.m.
  • 7:45 a.m.
  • 7:55 a.m.

4 a.m.

At last, Spencer lies down in the room and drifts off to sleep.

The night shift: 7 p.m. to 8 a.m.

  • 7:21 p.m.
  • 7:49 p.m.
  • 8:15 p.m.
  • 8:45 p.m.
  • 9:25 p.m.
  • 10 p.m.
  • 10:15 p.m.
  • 10:53 p.m.
  • 11:55 p.m.
  • 12:15 a.m.
  • 12:17 a.m.
  • 12:35 a.m.
  • 12:40 a.m.
  • 12:45 a.m.
  • 1 a.m.
  • 1:25 a.m.
  • 1:35 a.m.
  • 1:55 a.m.
  • 2:25 a.m.
  • 3:25 a.m.
  • 4 a.m.
  • 6 a.m.
  • 7:45 a.m.
  • 7:55 a.m.

6 a.m.

Yellow light is peeking around the edges of the blackout blinds when Spencer’s alarm awakens him less than two hours later.

Ordinarily, he’d visit people scheduled for early morning surgeries to offer some moral support, but on this morning he must continue searching for relatives of the motorcycle victim.

He tries a few numbers, but nothing doing. He logs onto social media, scours the internet. Spencer is striking out at every turn.

Someone from the state police calls. They’ve also had no luck.

The background image is Two heads are silhouetted against a whiteboard, on which are handwritten words.

The night shift: 7 p.m. to 8 a.m.

  • 7:21 p.m.
  • 7:49 p.m.
  • 8:15 p.m.
  • 8:45 p.m.
  • 9:25 p.m.
  • 10 p.m.
  • 10:15 p.m.
  • 10:53 p.m.
  • 11:55 p.m.
  • 12:15 a.m.
  • 12:17 a.m.
  • 12:35 a.m.
  • 12:40 a.m.
  • 12:45 a.m.
  • 1 a.m.
  • 1:25 a.m.
  • 1:35 a.m.
  • 1:55 a.m.
  • 2:25 a.m.
  • 3:25 a.m.
  • 4 a.m.
  • 6 a.m.
  • 7:45 a.m.
  • 7:55 a.m.

7:45 a.m.

Ellen Lichtfuss, the chaplain scheduled to work the 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. shift, arrives. Spencer tells her about his night and frustration. Somewhere, the family of the motorcycle accident has no idea that something awful has happened.

“He’s going to die,” Spencer says.

“He’s going to die,” Lichtfuss repeats. She sighs.

Pictured:
Troy Spencer, left, shares information with chaplain Ellen Lichtfuss about his overnight shift as she takes over the following morning.

View full photo

The night shift: 7 p.m. to 8 a.m.

  • 7:21 p.m.
  • 7:49 p.m.
  • 8:15 p.m.
  • 8:45 p.m.
  • 9:25 p.m.
  • 10 p.m.
  • 10:15 p.m.
  • 10:53 p.m.
  • 11:55 p.m.
  • 12:15 a.m.
  • 12:17 a.m.
  • 12:35 a.m.
  • 12:40 a.m.
  • 12:45 a.m.
  • 1 a.m.
  • 1:25 a.m.
  • 1:35 a.m.
  • 1:55 a.m.
  • 2:25 a.m.
  • 3:25 a.m.
  • 4 a.m.
  • 6 a.m.
  • 7:45 a.m.
  • 7:55 a.m.

7:55 a.m.

Spencer’s phone rings.

It’s the brother of the motorcycle accident victim. Spencer tells the man his brother had been admitted to the hospital last night. Could he come in?

Spencer hangs up and dials a number. “It’s Troy,” he says. “The brother for Trauma Fairview is coming in. Thank you.”

He smiles. “That feels good,” he murmurs. “I’m not going to lie.”

View the flickr gallery of photos

24 hours with Pastoral Services

Two days later

8 a.m.

The chaplains gather for their morning meeting around the conference room table.

They project Spencer’s end-of-shift report onto a screen and go through each call, along with all the weekend’s other traumas, illnesses, miracles and tragedies.

Before their morning prayer, the chaplains share specific people they’d like to mention.

“Pray for my brother,” Spencer tells his colleagues. Over the weekend, he explains, his brother made a purchase Spencer wishes he hadn’t. He wishes he could share everything he’s learned this summer, but Spencer doesn’t share too much about his job to protect the privacy of the people he tries to help.

“He bought a motorcycle,” Spencer says.

Listen as the group prays: