WEBSTER, Texas (KTRK) -- At 82-years-young, Reverend Dr. Tom Tucker is on call 24/7 as the Senior Chaplain Volunteer at HCA Houston Healthcare Clear Lake.
"I don't have to worry about getting in trouble with idle time," joked Tucker, who said he has served over 1,500 hours at the hospital over the past five years.
Tucker is also an Associate Minister at Taylor Lake Christian Church in Seabrook.
As the chaplain for the emergency department at the hospital, he works closely with hospital staff to understand people's needs.
"They clue me in on patient needs. They clue me in on staff needs, family needs and in return, every once in a while, when they get overloaded, as that will happen in the emergency department, I get to double up. I'll make beds if necessary," said Tucker.
Throughout the pandemic, Tucker said he has helped many families deal with not being able to see their loved ones and tried to encourage stressed staff.
"This was scary to the family members. They needed comforting and reassurance that they were getting the proper care. And then, the other thing that came up was the stress on the staff; Nurses, technicians, physicians, all of the people in the hospital are really putting out extra effort. Now they're getting extended time doing it," said Tucker.
He encourages people to show extra love to those working in the medical field during the pandemic.
"Knowing they're in this extra area of stress, anything you can do. Maybe babysit for them for an evening so they can get a break or anything like that," suggested Tucker.
Tucker was furloughed from his volunteer position for seven months back at the start of the pandemic.
It was then that he decided then to polish up his journal and send it off to a publisher. He said he was thrilled when the company decided to publish his book, 'A Conduit.'
He says the purpose of the book is to encourage other people to be volunteer chaplains.
"Right now, I need eight to 12 (volunteer chaplains) more in just this hospital. We need about 800 of them in the Houston area," explained Tucker.
He has worked in the control room at NASA, been a professor and a counselor, and he graduated from seminary at age 72. However, being a volunteer emergency room chaplain is his most rewarding venture yet, he says.
"It changes lives. It changed my life. What it does is it improves the quality of life of the patient and their families because it gives them an encouraging source of strength that they would not have had otherwise," said Tucker.
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Emergency room chaplain shares experiences serving throughout pandemic in his book, 'A Conduit'
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