Cindy Hoy: ‘Connecting people to hope’

Spiritual care director says chaplains play an important role in health care

Cindy Hoy

Cindy Hoy is the director of spiritual care for Sanford Health. Here, she shares her background working for the Good Samaritan Society, affirms her belief in caring for people of all different meaning frameworks and explains the central role chaplains play in health care.

Farm life, science and faith

Cindy Derks Hoy grew up the eldest child of two science teachers who taught in the small town of Stanberry, Missouri, in the northwest corner of the state. Although her family resided in town, they farmed on a legacy homestead seven miles away. There, stacking hay, birthing calves and bottle-feeding lambs were part of the regular course of life.

So, too, was faith. “God was always part of our life. We were active members of the United Methodist Church. Having parents who taught science deepened the respect and mystery; it didn’t explain away things of faith, but it helped spark in me a sense of awe of creation,” Hoy said.

In 1976, Hoy graduated from high school and enrolled at the University of Missouri at Columbia. Overwhelmed with making a career choice but with strengths in science and math, health care and physical therapy were strong possibilities. Over time, Hoy discovered counseling, education and vocational rehabilitation.

Youth director to teacher

Upon graduation in 1981, Hoy was invited to join the staff of Ashland United Methodist Church as youth director.

“I don’t remember exactly how that came about or how I landed there,” she said. “But someone saw gifts in me that I couldn’t see in myself. In three years, I created a strong youth program for junior high and high school youth. I loved it.”

It was probably around that time that Hoy sensed a call to enter full-time ministry. However, she put her plans on hold for a bit when she married in 1984, and she and her husband, a long-term care administrator for the Good Samaritan Society, moved to Hutchinson, Kansas.

Hoy spent her time substitute teaching there until they relocated to Scotland, South Dakota. Her husband sensed she was dissatisfied and encouraged her to speak with someone at Sioux Falls Seminary about pursuing a counseling degree.

Career in ministry

In 1989, she began work on her MA in counseling, adding the master of divinity degree two years later. By May of 1994, she had completed seminary, and in December that year was ordained to serve as pastor at Crestwood United Church of Christ.

Hoy completed seminary, was ordained, and became a minister in the United Church of Christ. Two years later she was called to work for the Good Samaritan Society. She spent the next decade serving as pastor and spiritual ministries director, traveling to long-term care centers across the Society encouraging employees in their mission to share God’s love while doing the hard work of nursing home care.

In 2003, Hoy was invited to lead the Spiritual Care Team at Sioux Valley Hospital (now Sanford USD Medical Center).

“Ultimately, I can see I’ve circled right back to health care, with a little different focus — on the spiritual component of whole-person care,” she said.

Meaningful work

“Probably the best part of what I do and what really fits me best is to be able to care for people of all meaning frameworks, people from a whole lot of different traditions. Each person’s story is unique, as is how each person copes with illness and stress,” Hoy said. “I am comfortable with and fascinated by the process of connecting people to whatever it is that brings them hope.”

“For me, it’s been a real joy to broaden my perspective. I think you become stronger in your faith own convictions when you’re curious about other traditions. My faith calls me to love my neighbor — no exceptions.”

As director of spiritual care, Hoy supports a team of hospital chaplains. Anyone who works as a chaplain is required to have 1,600 hours of clinical training, a master’s-level theology or ministry degree, and some hands-on, practical experience. Chaplains provide 24/7 coverage from the Heart Hospital to the Children’s Hospital and everywhere in between.

Helping people cope

On a given day, there could be 400 to 450 patients accompanied by family members, all of whom may need a chaplain. The chaplains also support staff through difficult times.

“Chaplains respond to all traumas and codes, as well as any number of challenging, life-changing experiences. Chaplains help folks draw on resources that they find meaningful and help them cope in difficult circumstances. No day is like another,” Hoy said.

Other responsibilities include overseeing a budget, mentoring staff chaplains and interns, and guiding the mission. Hoy also works with new employee orientation, diversity initiatives, and integrative health and offers presentations on spirituality and health.

Through all of this work, Hoy most enjoys making connections with people. She also finds joy in working with her talented and passionate team. And beyond that, she appreciates the opportunity to do such meaningful work, being with people during what she calls “a sacred time.”

Caring for the whole person

When the prospect of an affiliation with the Good Samaritan Society came about, Sanford Health President and CEO Kelby Krabbenhoft called Hoy, along with Dave Horazdovsky, CEO of the Good Samaritan Society, and Greg Wilcox, the vice president of mission effectiveness and senior pastor at the Society, to talk about what impact this coming together might have from a mission, vision and values standpoint.

The group affirmed their common heritage: caring for the whole person — body, mind and spirit. The new mission: “Dedicated to sharing God’s love through the work of health, healing and comfort. They then moved forward with the process of integrating the new mission into the lived experience of all across the organization, a project that remains ongoing.

Putting together the chaplain team, Hoy believes, is her signature accomplishment. They are “deeply compassionate and competent.” They complement each other well and are able to build relationships with interdisciplinary medical team.

“They make coming to work at Sanford a joy-filled experience for this leader,” she said.

Looking ahead, Hoy would like to build their service out further, adding more staff and offering in-house training for chaplains. She believes it’s essential that people feel cared for, and spiritual care is a key part of that. Sanford Health has the potential to be “a spiritual care center of excellence.”

‘Do all the good you can’

Hoy has been married for 35 years to her husband, Tom. They have a rich family life, with 10 nieces and nephews, seven great-nieces and great-nephews, as well as a wide circle of friends.

She enjoys travel and gardening, and the two enjoy camping, kayaking and fishing, particularly in northern Minnesota. Her husband is currently constructing a rustic cabin (off the grid, with no electricity, cell service or plumbing) in the Arrowhead Region near Lake Superior and Canada.

Having grown up United Methodist, Hoy still keeps a quote by founder John Wesley close by as a reminder:

“Do all the good you can, by all the means you can, in all the ways you can, in all the places you can, to all the people you can, as long as ever you can.”

“I hope employees at Sanford Health feel fully engaged and remember the profound impact that they have on every person they serve,” Hoy said. “It’s kind of cliché. We say it a lot: ‘What you do matters. You make a difference.’ But it’s true.”

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Posted In Faces of Sanford Health, Health Care Heroes, Symptom Management

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