Holly Wiest, MA Buddhist Studies 2000

I graduated from Naropa University in 2000 with an MA in Buddhist Studies, including a 400-hour Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE) internship with LifeSource Services, a home hospice organization in Denver. After graduation, I completed a yearlong CPE residency program at Fairview-University Medical Center, a large academic health center in Minneapolis, Minnesota. After residency, I was hired as a full-time staff chaplain at a smaller but rapidly growing community hospital in the same healthcare system— Fairview Ridges Hospital in Burnsville, Minnesota. I have worked at Fairview Ridges ever since.

Just to give you an idea of what my work entails, here are some of my duties:

  • Pastoral care and short-term counseling for patients, families and staff in all areas of the hospital, including several medical/surgical units; intensive care unit; labor and delivery, maternal-newborn, and special care nursery; emergency department; pediatrics; surgery; and outpatient rehab (physical, occupational and speech therapies).
  • Spiritual and emotional support related to advance care planning (code status and living wills), loss and grief, end-of-life care and ethical decision making.
  • Education and clinical supervision of chaplain interns and residents during their CPE training at the hospital.
  • Support group facilitation for people who have experienced life-changing illness or loss, including groups for outpatients recovering from heart attack, open-heart surgery, and other heart-related illnesses and surgeries; strokes; and pregnancy loss (miscarriage and stillbirth).
  • Critical incident stress debriefing for staff in the aftermath of traumatic patient death and other stressful events.
  • Education for nursing staff, for example, to support nurses in asking patients at admission about religious preference and faith group affiliation so that we can better support their emotional and spiritual needs in the hospital.

I am deeply committed to the model of interfaith chaplaincy, which is based in knowledge of the world’s faith traditions and genuine appreciation for and ability to work with peoples’ unique faith/existential perspectives. Most of my patients identify as Christian, of many different denominations, whether currently affiliated with a church of not. However, the hospital's neighbors also include substantial populations of immigrant Cambodian, Laotian and Thai Buddhists and Somali Muslims. I cannot imagine a better foundation than Shambhala Buddhist practice for being with the suffering and confusion of others, reflecting back to them their basic goodness, and helping them to leverage their own wisdom, strength and resources in times of need.

Before joining the Shambhala sangha at Naropa, I belonged to a Tibetan Buddhist center in south Minneapolis, Karma Thegsum Choling. I took refuge there with Bardor Rinpoche in 1997, and took the Bodhisattva Vow from Ringu Tulku Rinpoche during my first year at Naropa. I sat dathun at Shambhala Mountain Center (SMC) at the end of my time at Naropa.