From Pulpit to Patient Rooms: Meet Hospital Chaplain Shelby Smith

Our Hospital Chaplain | Arkansas Heart Hospital

A simple prayer changed the trajectory of Chaplain Shelby Smith’s life. For 19 years, Smith served at a church in Little Rock. After studying a passage in the Old Testament, he found himself realizing there may still be work to be done outside of his church. While he was feeling fulfilled, he felt called to a new adventure. “So I simply prayed, ‘Lord, if there’s a new adventure out there for me, I am open. I am open to it, where as I hadn’t been open before,’” he said. Six weeks after praying those words, his phone rang, and at the beginning of 2019, Smith came onboard as the new hospital chaplain for Arkansas Heart Hospital.

Smith has the unique perspective of meeting not only with patients, but also their families.

“We get guests here in various emotional states. They are here because there is some issue with their health. There are some where those issues are very serious and those, oftentimes, have fears and concerns about the outcome of their visit here. We have some that are fearful & others that are confident because of where they stand in their life and feel they have things in order. There are some who wonder about whether or not they have their life in order from a spiritual perspective,” Smith said. Many times, it’s the patient’s family who needs someone to pray with them, listen to them or walk with them through the illness of a loved one.

“Sometimes I get to talk to them about other issues. They need a safe place to download, if you will, and I get to be a part of hopefully God’s encouragement to them.”

Our patients come from a variety of faith backgrounds. Whatever faith background they have, Smith helps to facilitate getting the patient in touch with the person they see as their religious leader or spiritual advisor.

Smith is not just available for families and patients – he is a confidential ear to staff at Arkansas Heart Hospital as well. Admittedly he views this role as one of an encourager to the large, diverse staff.

“I get the opportunity to be a sounding board for them; a safe place where they can verbalize their frustrations. I get the opportunity to pray with them and for them.” He aims to help provide balance when pressures of work, home and life get heavy. “To perform at your best, you must have a work and life balance. Our families need us healthy and our work also demands that we perform at a high level as well. Work/life balance is essential in order to achieve this.”

Smith admits that being a hospital chaplain was never a goal of his, but this is exactly where he knows he needs to be for this season of life. “I get to do what I love to do and what I feel God has equipped me to do and they actually pay me for it! Being a member of the staff here at the Heart Hospital is definitely a ‘Get To’ for me and I am enjoying this new season of life.”

To learn more about the exceptional care Arkansas Heart Hospital provides, see why we’ve been rated with five stars by the centers for medicare and medicaid services.