Beba Tata is the manager of spiritual care for Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville, Florida. Beba is known as an exceptional colleague who is dedicated not only to her patients — but also to her colleagues. “She exudes compassion and always puts others’ needs first,” said a colleague.
Since starting at Mayo Clinic, she has developed several programs that focus on healing and compassion for both patients and staff. She created well-being rooms in every unit called “Support our Staff” (SOS) rooms where staff could take short breaks to relax, refresh, and refocus. She spearheaded a series of Tea for the Soul pop-up events, where she and her fellow chaplains provided tea and treats for front-line staff. More than just food, the events were an invitation for healthcare workers to set down their heavy burdens during their shifts and unwind for a few minutes.
Events like these were designed to meet staff where they are and bring moments of respite to staff who are putting in their all to bring the best care to patients. The simple act of handing someone a cup and pouring out hot water for them is an expression of solidarity and compassion: “It is our way of saying: ‘We are together in this. You are not alone, and we affirm you in all you do.’” she says. “I have seen this bring tears of joy to the eyes of our staff.”
Before becoming a chaplain, Beba worked in her native Cameroon as a health counselor, where she was deeply touched by the stories of patients with HIV/AIDS. Her experiences made her realize that she had a calling: “I knew that I wanted to spend my life caring for the sick and suffering, though not as a nurse or a medical doctor,” she said. “I wanted to sit at the bedside and listen to people’s stories, bring comfort and hope, and serve as a guide and companion through their painful journeys.”
Her chaplaincy work provides spiritual and emotional support to patients, families, and staff during their most difficult moments, as they wrestle with feelings of anger, fear, sadness, and anxiety. “Compassionate care means entering into solidarity with those who suffer,” she said. “It is being a companion in the journey with others in their places of brokenness, vulnerability, and loneliness while all the time creating a hospitable non-judgmental space where they can share their stories and experiences. Compassionate care is care that makes people feel heard, affirmed and valued.”
In one case, Beba was called upon to work with a patient who was non-compliant and angry with everyone on his care team. After sitting with the patient and asking about his life, Beba learned that he was estranged from his children and longed to reconcile with them before his death. As his trust in Beba grew, he agreed to let her share this story with his care team, enabling them to contact his children and facilitate a reunion in his final days.
There are countless cases like this where Beba has supported patients by sitting with them and providing an unhurried, non-anxious, non-judgmental presence. She guides each one to tap into the resources that they have within themselves. As one of her patients said, “She awakened in me something I had forgotten I had — she helped me rediscover hope. ”