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Paving the way: Jill Rowland's Story

March 13, 2023

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Although women have always been central to the history of health and medicine, it was common for them to be primarily seen as caretakers and nurturers. This Women's History Month, we want to call attention to those women who have stepped outside the box by breaking standards and setting new examples of what is possible for women, then and now.

Meet Jill Rowland. Jill joined Legacy Health nine years ago after being certified as an Association of Clinical Pastoral Education (ACPE) educator. Her first job here was at Legacy Emanuel Medical Center on its clinical pastoral education faculty. Earlier in her career, Jill notice that people frequently looked past her to the "man in the room," even when she was the person in charge. But she was never discouraged from moving forward to reach her full potential. In May of 2022, Jill became the director of spiritual care and ACPE-certified education, making her the first woman to hold this position in the 111-year history of Legacy Emanuel. In this leadership role, Jill leads a team of chaplains, chaplain residents, chaplain interns and ACPE faculty members as they deliver spiritual care services at Legacy Emanuel, Randall Children's Hospital at Legacy Emanuel and Unity Center for Behavioral Health.

Throughout Jill’s ministry career, a pattern emerged. Jill was the first woman pastor in the two congregations she served. She served as the first woman chaplain at a previous hospital. And at Legacy Emanuel, she was the first woman ACPE-certified educator. And now, she is the first woman director of spiritual care.

"My personal and professional journey inspires my life's work."

Jill's career passion stems from a personal experience during her childhood. When she was 16 years old, her twin brother passed away by suicide. Spiritual care providers accompanied her through dark days of grief and eventual healing.

"I was able to make meaning out of the worst time of my life,” she says. “I didn't know then that I would become a chaplain, but I know that it certainly informed who and where I am today."

Jill often gets asked, "What's it like being a chaplain?" And although it can be a difficult and heartbreaking job, the spiritual team at Legacy Emanuel often talks about how they are called to allow their hearts to break with others.

"I have a friend who says, 'When our hearts are full, it comes out through our eyes.' I have a full heart because tears come easily to me. With a full heart, I have the capacity to allow my heart to break repeatedly. My tears have sometimes been labeled as ‘weak.’ I think this is part of a gender stereotype. For me, my tears empower my spiritual care and are part of the way that I accompany and bear witness to others and their tears."

Although Jill’s mother wanted to go to college to become a math teacher, she grew up when it wasn’t considered a “normal” career for women. However, it was still necessary for her mother to support Jill and encourage her to pursue her dreams and professional endeavors. The support Jill received from her mother has been critical in her growth as a woman and professional and something she tries to bring to work with her every day as she supports others.

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