Sara Martinez understands that sense of skepticism when someone tells you they feel called to do something. She’s been there. But, as an ER nurse turned hospital chaplain, her advice for anyone who senses a calling from God is, “You should listen. Because you can run, but you can’t hide. You know when God has placed a very specific call on your heart and on your being,” she said. “Doors begin to open. Opportunities begin to be presented.”
Martinez first felt an inkling of a call to help care for the spiritual journeys of others at Pine Springs Ranch when she worked at summer camp as a college student and again when working as part of the student association chaplain team at Loma Linda University. Those experiences, combined with mission trips and other outreach involvement, helped her see firsthand the importance of caring for every aspect of a person—body, mind, and spirit. “So, I wanted—I felt called—to pursue education and a second career that would allow me to be able to do that,” she said.
After graduating from nursing school, Martinez worked full time as an ER nurse at Loma Linda University Medical Center while she pursued a Master of Science degree in chaplaincy at Loma Linda. Earlier this year, after completing her master’s in 2020, she joined the chaplain team at Adventist Health Simi Valley.
“People ask, ‘Are you tired of being an ER nurse?’ and the answer is, ‘No.’ I actually very much love being an ER nurse. I just felt chaplaincy was placed on my heart. So I chose to leave my full-time ER job and a wonderful team who had become family and chose to pursue the next door God has given me,” said Martinez.
Spiritual care services are an integral part of caring for patients at Adventist Health. A stay at the hospital can bring feelings of fear and vulnerability, and chaplains are there to provide emotional and spiritual support for patients and their loved ones as they journey through the process of healing. All Adventist Health chaplains are credentialed and licensed Seventh-day Adventist ministers and have a minimum of master’s-level education. Chaplain teams also provide spiritual care for people of all faiths.
Chaplaincy support for emotional and spiritual needs also extends to caring for hospital staff members. “That’s my bread and butter—my passion. I have experienced firsthand the importance and need for staff spiritual care,” said Martinez, who added that caring for the spiritual needs of staff has the potential to improve how the whole team cares for their patients and each other. While Martinez spends much of each workday visiting, praying, and journeying with patients, her role also extends to formal presentations for new hospital employees about their own resilience and self-care, what that looks like, and why it’s important.
As she settles into her role at Simi Valley, she says she feels very blessed. “I don’t think it was a coincidence that I spent all that time in the emergency room and then get to be a chaplain somewhere where they are wanting to see the spiritual care program grow. It’s taking things to the next level. Ten years ago, no one would have ever said I would have been a nurse in the emergency room and then pursue chaplaincy, but I’m excited about the future and hope to combine them beautifully.”
To learn more about the Adventist Health presence in Simi Valley, visit adventisthealth.org/simi-valley.
By Kim Strobel