Bryan Baker – Unsung Hero

Bryan Baker is being recognized as an Unsung Hero by the West Virginia Division of Rehabilitation Services (DRS) for his work during the pandemic.

Bryan is a chaplain at Children's National Hospital in Washington DC, where he works with nephrology and cardiac patients in the cardiac intensive care unit and the heart and kidney unit.

Having grown up in Morgantown, Bryan graduated from University High in 1996. He then attended West Virginia Wesleyan College, graduating in 2000 with a Bachelor of Arts in Christian education.

From there, Bryan went on to do missionary work. He spent time in South Africa studying apartheid and in Rwanda studying genocide. In Uganda, he organized aid and relief for refugee camps. And while in seminary at Duke Divinity School, he served as a construction supervisor for a group of undergraduates helping with disaster recovery after Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans.

He completed his master's degree in divinity in 2007 and landed back in West Virginia, where he was a pastor for several years. However, Bryan eventually ended up with significant "burn out" due to his own desires to excel and please people and the constant demands on him, despite trying to establish boundaries.

At this point, Bryan had to step back and reevaluate the path he was on and try to figure out what he wanted to do with his future. Bryan applied for services from DRS. Throughout school, he had difficulty with learning, primarily with reading comprehension, and he was dealing with some anxiety and depression.

Bryan ultimately decided to go back to school to pursue physical therapy, and DRS purchased software to help with that training. DRS also provided counseling and other support services to help him work towards his new employment goal.

Eventually, Bryan chose not to complete his degree at West Virginia University but instead applied for a chaplain position in the hospital's trauma center. The opportunity combined everything he loved about the ministry with his knowledge and interest in medical science.

In April 2020, Bryan took the chaplain position at Children's National in DC. No two days are the same for him at work. His day usually starts the night before when he reviews the surgical schedule for the next day so he knows what patients and families will need extra support. The patients with whom he works are all children. He may spend time with a mother in one room, preparing her for the impending death of her child, and then in another room, he may play video games with a kid to provide interaction and emotional support.

Another significant aspect of his job, especially during the pandemic, is providing support and counseling to staff. The hospital chaplains have created a comfort corner where staff can retreat to get away from the stress in their jobs. It is equipped with a TV with tropical views, aroma therapy, a massage chair, coffee, tea, snacks, adult coloring books, sudoku and other items to help employees who may be trying to manage the day-to-day struggles of their work or deal with the loss of a particular patient. They have also provided extra support for employees who have lost coworkers to COVID-19.

In addition to COVID, Bryan and other hospital workers have additional issues to deal with just because of where they are physically located. Being in DC, their environment is affected by events going on around them, like last year's race riots.

DRS Rehabilitation Counselor Jamie Lafferty nominated Bryan for the Unsung Heroes recognition because of his strong desire to serve and help others, which is his life's passion.

Bryan is a family man, with a wife and two children. When he isn't working, he spends time with them, and he enjoys a run several times a week to help alleviate tension.

Bryan believes that everything he did prior to this job helped him to prepare for the work he is presently doing. He loves being able to help families get through their current circumstances and is grateful for the opportunity to do the job.