Rochester Regional chaplain reflects on year and a half into pandemic


ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — The holidays can be a challenge for those who’ve lost a loved one. It’s something any hospital chaplain is all too familiar with — especially amid a pandemic.

Clif Genge’s job with Rochester Regional Health is to be a spiritual support system for patients going through a difficult time. He connects them with loved ones, and other spiritual leaders in the community. The workload for him has definitely increased over the past year and a half.

In pre-pandemic times he’s used to seeing around 15 patients a day, whereas now he’s seeing about 25.

For the past year and a half, COVID-19 has brought on some visitation restrictions that require most visits to be entirely over an iPad, unless the patient is end-of-life.

“COVID patients are not allowed to have visitors at all,” Genge said. “So I’ll go in the room and I’ll set up a iPad or phone sometimes and if families want they can do a Facetime or a Zoom.”

When a patient nears end-of-life: COVID patient or not, in-person visitation is allowed. But sometimes, the turnaround happens too fast, and video chat is the only option.

“I’ve had to call families and say, ‘Hey I know we’re scheduled for 2 o’ clock, but if I don’t get you in the room now you’re not going to be able to say goodbye to dad,'” Genge said. “In several cases I’ve been the last connection to them before they passed away.”

Genge says working a job like this during a pandemic weighs on you. You may be wondering how he leaves the emotions and grief at the door after every workday.

The answer is, he doesn’t. But it’s taught him how to be a better person, and look at the glass half full.

“It helps me to appreciate what I have.” Genge said. “I go home and I have three healthy kids.”

And for patients, being there in those moments is special.

And sometimes musical…

“I was interacting with a family via video call and his wife played Eric Clapton ‘We Got Tonight’, because that was their song, and if that wasn’t enough she followed with ‘You are My Sunshine’, so there were a lot of tears,” Genge said.

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