Chaplaincy and Spiritual Care at the Hospice
The Hospice’s new chaplain, Suzie Stark, reflects on how the chaplaincy and spiritual care team can support patients and families…
The other day I caught myself saying to someone on the ward, “I have no agenda”. Now, that is not strictly true or I would be out of a job, but there can be a problem when people hear the word ‘chaplain’. I’m not sure if there is an expectation (or fear) that we are here to preach to people or judge them. That is why, when we introduce the chaplaincy service, we reassure people that we are neither here to preach, nor to judge, that we accept each person for who they are and where they are on their own journey.
I work alongside two chaplaincy volunteers, Jan and Mike, and we are here for everyone, irrespective of an individual’s beliefs. We offer support and care to anyone who might find that helpful. Patients on the wards and in the community, their families and friends, staff and volunteers, all have access to the chaplaincy team and we respond to each person, to their own unique concerns and circumstances and offer our support if it is wanted.
The chaplaincy and spiritual care team can support you, whether you have a faith or not
For some people that support will be related to their faith; we might be asked to contact their Imam, Priest or Minister or we might ask our local Parish Priest, Father George, to come in. We might be asked for Communion, or to conduct a wedding or to assist with advice on planning a funeral.
For other people there might be the need to talk about things that weigh heavily on their mind. Often these are issues with which they might not wish to burden family and friends; worries about their illness, fears about the future; concerns for a loved one.
Sometimes people want to share their life story and it is a privilege to have the time to listen to their reminiscences. The chaplains are also part of the bereavement support team and we are involved with both pre- and post-bereavement support as well as with the Times of Remembrance events which are held two or three times each year. Sometimes we are highly visible while at other times our work is conducted quietly and in confidence.
We find ways of enabling them to continue to do things that bring pleasure or are important
At the heart of all we do are the individuals we encounter with their own unique needs, both spiritual and practical. As we get to know what makes someone tick, we find ways of enabling them to continue to do things that bring pleasure or are important: painting, sketching, knitting, card-making, using the new art room, playing the piano or spending time in the Columba Room – our beautiful, quiet, reflective space. In the day hospice we work with colleagues from the occupational therapy team and with our volunteers to assist with all manner of arts and crafts projects as we mark the changing seasons.
I try to get involved with as many Hospice activities as possible, from cheering people over the start and finish lines at A Walk to Remember, to helping at the Art Friends event, and hosting a table at the Giant Pub Quiz. As the Hospice’s Chaplain it is important to be involved in all aspects of Hospice life so that people get to know me, build a relationship and trust.
The chaplaincy team is here, alongside our many colleagues, offering additional support and care to anyone and everyone who might welcome it. And our agenda? Of course, we do have an agenda but that is set not by us, but by you, by each individual we encounter.
The chaplaincy and spiritual care team is part of the Hospice’s supportive care team. Find out more about the supportive care services we provide here.