Trenton Psychiatric Hospital in New Jersey has just three full-time chaplains for 400 patients, so students from Princeton Theological Seminary field education program serve as chaplains, leading worship services and spirituality groups in which patients can discuss faith-related questions.
“The students are a crucial part of our programming and can offer more to our patients than we otherwise would,” says Rev. Miriam Diephouse-McMillan, MDiv ’10, BCCC, chaplain liaison for Trenton Psychiatric Hospital. She recalls a letter she received from a former patient who thanked her for the meaningful interactions she had with the Princeton Seminary intern assigned to her unit.
“It’s encouraging for us to work with the students because of their commitment and passion to make a difference in patients’ lives,” Diephouse-McMillan says. In fact, she says, there are times when all three of the full-time chaplains are Princeton Seminary graduates.
“Trenton Psych was a fantastic place to work and learn, a seminal part of my Seminary experience and the most important thing I did at Princeton,” says Lindsay Clark, MDiv ’18.
One of the best things about her time at Trenton Psychiatric Hospital was getting immediate raw feedback on how others perceived her. “That was a gift that let me see myself in a new light, and it continues to be helpful,” Clark says.
She recalls the bond she built with a patient who sought her out because he was aware that she delighted in who he was. “Working there made me see in a new way how others respond to the love we show them, often by expressing interest, or even love, in return,” she says. “I learned that everyone can feel our love and compassion for them, and that often brings out the best in people.”