Highland member Bill Holmes is featured in an article in Norton Healthcare news online and in print. Ordained at Highland in 2012, Rev. Holmes completed a long career as a physician to reorient his work to chaplaincy. The article below tells a bit of his story and is reprinted with permission.
Physician finds second career as chaplain
Bill Holmes, M.D., remembers the exact moment he decided to end his long-time career as a physician.
“It was March 2006. I was driving home from the hospital at 2 in the morning and decided, ‘This is no longer fun,’” said Holmes, a former pediatric neurologist.
Today, the 70-year-old Holmes still works in a hospital. He now arrives at Norton Brownsboro Hospital around 7:30 a.m. and works five to nine hours. Instead of caring for patients’ bodies, he works as a chaplain, nurturing their spirits. Most of them don’t realize the Rev. Bill Holmes is a medical doctor; he removed “M.D.” from his name badge early in his chaplaincy.
“I want patients to know I’m there just as a chaplain,” he said.
Although he doesn’t disclose his medical background when working with patients, Holmes’ former career helps in his new role.
“Forty years of medicine gives me a great advantage,” he said. “I’m used to going into rooms where people are nearing the end of their life. And I was always one who remained calm and did what needed to be done.”
The Rev. Ronald C. Oliver, Ph.D., BCC, system vice president, Mission and Outreach, said Holmes exhibits the same compassion that he did as a doctor.
“He figured out how to be someone other than a physician while holding onto the insights of the physician,” Oliver said.
For Holmes, being a chaplain isn’t just a new role — it’s a calling.
“My career in medicine and what I do now are motivated by my faith, without a doubt,” said Holmes, a member of Highland Baptist Church who has occasionally preached locally.
As a young man he enrolled in The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville before switching to medical school. He intended to pursue psychiatry, but once he was in medical training, he discovered that he loved treating children.
After retiring from practice, Holmes returned to theological studies at Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary. He earned a Master of Divinity degree in three years, then underwent a one-year chaplaincy residency and joined Norton Healthcare’s staff in 2011.
Among the system’s chaplains, Holmes stands out for reasons other than his medical degree. One is how late in life he began his chaplaincy. Another is that he works mostly as a volunteer, receiving pay only when he is the sole chaplain during a shift.
Holmes said the work is its own reward. He values being with people “at one of the greatest hours of need in their life” and realizing that “for that moment, you are there for them.”
“I have learned more from this and I’ve received more out of it than I’ve given, quite honestly,” he said. “I get too much out of this not to do it.”