Bowdoin students awaiting treatment at Parkview Hospital might be surprised to find more than traditional magazines available for waiting-room reading. Pamphlets titled "The Healing Power of Prayer," "Does God Care That I'm Hurting?" and "When Jesus Comes Again" can be found lining the shelves of an unobtrusive rotating rack in a wide, tiled hallway. Down the hallway and to the right stands a small chapel with a stained-glass window and few wooden pews. Scribbled notes in a guest book offer their thanks for praise and prayer.
Though this scene is reminiscent of a church, its location is actually Parkview Adventist Medical Center, a religiously affiliated hospital located a mile down Maine Street from Bowdoin and frequented by Bowdoin students seeking medical attention beyond Dudley Coe.
Given its proximity to campus, students are regularly transported to Parkview's emergency room and hospital.
"In any given week, we average five to 10 routine transports to Parkview," said Director of Safety and Security Randy Nichols. He added that Security also transports an occasional student to Mid Coast Hospital, which is located about three miles from campus, near Cook's Corner.
"There are only four faith-based hospitals in the State of Maine," said Vice President of Parkview Adventist Medical Center Sheryl McWilliams. While the three other religiously affiliated hospitals are Catholic, Parkview is the only Protestant hospital of the four.
According to McWilliams, doctors and staff at Parkview believe in the power of prayer, and do not discriminate based on a patient's religious affiliation.
"We acknowledge the spiritual dimension to health...regardless of your belief system," said McWilliams.
Parkview's hospital administration includes an active chaplaincy service, which consists of individuals adhering to a variety belief systems.
"These people are actively engaged in the model of caring for patients" said McWilliams.
Through the patient admission process, Parkview can determine which patients want to be actively engaged in prayer, and which would prefer to be excluded. If a patient indicates a desire to be actively involved, he or she will receive a wristband that alerts hospital staff that they can pray aloud with the patient. In addition, hospital staff members also wear bands to cue the patient that they are available to pray.
According to McWilliams, the band system eliminates any awkwardness that might arise when asking a patient about prayer.
"The blue band for the patient is a visual cue to the staff that this patient would like to pray," said McWilliams. "Those visual cues eliminate that weird thing."
According to McWilliams, patients who do not indicate that they would like to actively participate in prayer, however, are not entirely excluded from the system?they are simply prayed for, rather than with.
"We pray for every single patient every single day, unless they ask that we not," she said. "Prayer is engaged a lot here."
The attachment to religion is especially strong with the elderly or the very sick.
"As people age, or as they encounter life-altering situations, a vast majority of the people reach out for a higher power," said McWilliams.
While students admitted to the emergency room for alcohol do not interact with prayer in the same way that regular patients are invited to, patients and friends of the patients said that they felt that Parkview's religious affiliation negatively affected their hospital visit. In particular, students voiced concern that staff members at Parkview are less tolerant of drinking and underage drinking because of their religious beliefs.
Although Security has only transported two students for alcohol-related reasons this year, last year 15 students were admitted into Parkview's emergency room under heavy intoxication.
According to Randy Nichols, all the alcohol transports last year were strictly emergency room visits.
"None of those visits resulted in admission to the hospital," he said.
A student who requested her identity remain anonymous said that when she accompanied her intoxicated friend to the emergency room two years ago, the hospital staff treated her friend with less sympathy than might be expected.
"They were very brusque with her the next morning," said the student. "Granted this was something that she had done to herself and it was her own fault, but I did think that her obvious poor mental state could have warranted a little bit more gentleness."
"They did talk to her a bit about being responsible," the student added.
Another student who also requested anonymity and who stayed with her intoxicated friend at Parkview said she felt that the emergency room staff was more disapproving than helpful.
"My friend was visibly very very upset and the doctor was not really sympathetic at all. He was really curt with us and he didn't really do anything," she said.
Zac Skipp '11 said that when he accompanied an intoxicated friend to Parkview in May of last year, he also found that staff members seemed less friendly than they would have been had the situation not involved underage drinking.
"I've heard people say that when you have alcohol poisoning you get put in the back of the line, but it was so late that there was no back of the line," he said.
According to Randy Nichols, if this does occur, it is likely related to the graveness of patients' illnesses and not any religious affiliations.
"It totally depends on the severity of the conditions," said Nichols, adding that hospitals routinely have to triage patients when waiting rooms are busy.
Though Nichols said he had heard stories about students receiving a lecture when being discharged after intoxication, he has never witnessed it in person.
"My experience there has been strictly based on students receiving care and not receiving a lecture."
One student, who also requested anonymity, was admitted to the emergency room for a sports-related injury last year. The student said she felt uncomfortable when a staff member asked about one of her daily medications.
"I told her it was birth control and she simply raised her eyebrows at me, without giving me a chance to tell her I was on it for the hormones, not to have loads of promiscuous pre-marital sex?as her look suggested!" said the student.
McWilliams suggested that students' feelings about emergency room visits, especially those related to alcohol, may be a perception. She assured that the hospital is accustomed to seeing illnesses and cases that directly confront traditional religious values, and that religious judgments have no place alongside providing care for the patient.
"That's not a factor in health care," she said. "You would be floored at the stuff that walks through our doors."
If a lecture is delivered to a patient at the hospital, Nichols agreed that it is probably advice for the future given out of professional medical concern, and not from a religious standpoint.
"I've been very pleased with our relationship with Parkview," Nichols said. "I've really got the sense that they work well with us."
"Religious affiliation has no effect on the quality of care," said Director of Health Services Sandra Hayes.
Though there are two hospitals in the area, Security and Brunswick Rescue default to Parkview when transporting Bowdoin students because it is closer than Mid Coast.
"Either hospital in the area does great work and quality work, regardless of religious affiliation," said Hayes.
Despite the reservations that some students have about the hospital, many agree that the care they receive there is no different than the care they would receive somewhere else.
"The only way I've ever noticed Parkview's relationship to religion are the crucifixes on the walls," said Ian Yaffe '09. Otherwise, it's just a smaller hospital that is overshadowed by Mid Coast."
Wilson Dippo '12 visited Parkview four times this semester after breaking his wrist. He said that while people told him about Parkview's religious affiliation, his main priority was to receive medical care and he views Parkview as he would any other hospital.
"What they have on the walls doesn't really make a difference," Dippo said.