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Spotlight on Jennifer Hayes


Spotlight on Jennifer Hayes

In March 2022, Jennifer Hayes stepped into the role of director of Spiritual Care at Cook Children's. But she is no stranger to the organization or our Promise. Jennifer joined Cook Children's in 2016 as a chaplain in the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit (PICU) and eventually also served as the PRN chaplain supervisor. 

“I bring to this role a wealth of understanding and knowledge of what it's like to be with people in the midst of chaos and darkness,” Jennifer said. “And what it means for us as chaplains, us as employees of Cook Children's, to bring light into that darkness.”

jennifer hayesDuring the pandemic, she helped patients, families and staff in the COVID-19 ICU through difficult situations both emotionally and spiritually, which included spearheading a fanny pack competition.  She set up a ‘COVID Café’ for frontline staff on the unit to retreat to during their shift. They could watch TV, enjoy the snacks or one of the many word searches, games, or funny memes she left at the tables.

“I am here for you as our staff, whether you're a contractor or clock in or salaried, part of my role is to support you however you need to be supported,” Jennifer said. “I'm here to listen to your woes. I'm here to offer you chocolate. I'm here to let you cry without offering you a tissue unless you ask for it. I am here for you and for the staff of this wonderful place.” 

Jennifer is excited to help grow staff care, which even includes fun and things, like pulling an April Fools' Day prank at a fellow chaplain's retirement party. 

“I am perhaps the public figure that you might see, but I am not the (Spiritual Care) department,” she said. “My department is made up of many many chaplains, some that work overnight and some that work during the day, but I look to them for their guidance and ideas and their passions. I try to foster within them the ability to own their pastoral abilities so they can go out and best serve this community.”

Jennifer HayesAbout Jennifer Hayes

With 13 years of chaplain experience, Jennifer previously served as Chaplain at Children’s Hospital at Erlanger in Chattanooga, Tennessee, St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital and Montgomery Bell State Park

She graduated with a Master of Divinity from Memphis Theological Seminary, a Bachelor of Arts in Human Services from Bethel University and is ordained as Minister of Word and Sacrament in the Cumberland Presbyterian Church.  

Jennifer is also trained in mediation and CISM. Outside of work, she enjoys coaching soccer with the YMCA and serves on the board at Cumberland Presbyterian Children’s Home. 

Learn more about Cook Children's Spiritual Care here.