Name: Reb. Naomi Tzril Saks, MA, M.Div., BCC
Title: Director of Spiritual Care and Volunteer Services at Kaiser Permanente
Advice to the Next Generation of Caregivers: Saks advises new caregivers to follow their inner voice and seek the best training possible, either in the form of academics, meditation or whole person training in order to show up with a clear mind and full heart. Finally, she suggests staying current on ongoing problems, solutions, strengths and weaknesses within health care.
Interesting Facts: Saks loves to garden, as it keeps her in touch with the natural rhythm of life, providing an antidote to the oftentimes hectic and intense nature of health care. She also enjoys engaging in conversations with friends over dinner, as well as hiking, yoga and being immersed in nature and silence.
Schwartz Center Activities: Saks helped start the Schwartz Rounds™ program in three hospitals in California.
“Schwartz Rounds is one of the places in my work life where I feel like myself: the whole committee and community are coming together and being truthful, honest and respectful—and transforming ourselves and our community in ways beyond words.” – Naomi Tzril Saks
Naomi Saks has been through a lot in her life, including the life-changing trial of caring for her father, who was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in 2004. Saks saw this opportunity to nurture him as an honor. “I never felt so useful in my whole life,” she said.
Saks did not grow up in a religious household, so she had not encountered a chaplain before her father fell ill. When the chaplain came to the University of Chicago Hospital to see her father, Saks and her family were immediately captivated by the love, space and comfort that the chaplain brought into the room.
After seeing the impact this chaplain had on her family, Saks knew she had found her calling in life. She wanted to accompany others. She could not believe a profession existed where she would be required to be so intimate with the human condition. Six months after meeting the chaplain, she went on to become a clinical health care chaplain, as well.
When Saks began her career, she realized she had to train her body, mind and spirit to be up for caring for others every day. Witnessing sickness and death so frequently can take an emotional toll, so it is essential to ensure self care, in addition to care for others.
“Every time I meet the patient and their family, I am so incredibly honored to be invited into their lives, to be able to witness them, to be able to use whatever I have and whoever I am to support their well-being,” said Saks.
To ensure that she is fully charged, Saks makes sure to find time for herself by meditating twice a day, doing yoga, taking a hot bath, going for a walk with her partner and socializing with friends. Without working on her physical and spiritual self, Saks would not be able to make herself available to serve people.
During her time at work, Saks feels as if she and her whole community are coming together and displaying truthfulness, honesty and respect; they transform themselves to be better. Whenever a new face appears at a Schwartz Rounds session, Saks notes how they transform.
“I see physicians, radiologists, surgeons come to Schwartz Rounds for the first time to get to know what it’s like. They may initially not feel that comfortable, but after the second or third time, I hear them speaking in a way where I can feel their whole person showing up,” said Saks.
Rounds are a warm and welcoming setting to all, and that is why people gradually open up during them. They’re not just environments that nurture compassion – they instill positive, long-term effects on everyone who comes through the door.