Joanna Elliott, the Trust’s Lead Chaplain, tells us about the 24/7 on-call service they are providing for patients, the support available for staff and how their roles have changed in recent weeks as they respond to the pandemic…
Can you explain your role and what it usually involves?
The chaplaincy service is a small team providing a 24 hour, 7 day service across the Trust.
The teams consists of staff chaplains, a Trust Imam, a Trust Rabbi and contacts with volunteers from different faith groups in the community to provide a broad support for patients.
Our usual role consists of providing spiritual care for patients, staff and relatives of all faiths and no faith. In the NHS, spirituality is defined as that which connects an individual to their sense of identity, connectedness with the world and others, and what gives their life meaning and purpose.
We are frequently called to give spiritual care at the end of life and this is appreciated by people of faith and those who do not follow any organised religion. Supporting staff is also an important part of what we do. Many work in roles with a high emotional demand and often value someone to talk things through with.
We look after the chapels and prayer spaces and provide resources for the hospital community to be able to reflect and pray. We are also involved in lots of other aspects of work around the hospitals including staff training, education, organ donation, psychological first aid, emotional debriefing sessions, carol services, acts of remembrance and memorials.
How has your role had to change in recent weeks?
We have stood down our volunteers and are now working with just the team of staff chaplains. We visit patients when they are referred, request a visit or the ward staff call. We are also visiting patients at the end of life to provide all important support when visiting restrictions are in place.
We are doing much more staff support now and are working with the family liaison team, the wellbeing team and HELP service to help with issues around Covid-19.
We have created spiritual care resources for staff and patients. Our teaching and other related activities have been put on hold but we are maintaining the 24/7 on-call cover.
How have you found the change? What has been challenging?
We miss our lovely volunteers and it is challenging to provide care while wearing PPE but we are doing our best. It is so sad to attend a patient at the end of life and the family have not been able to be with them either due to restrictions or their own health. It is also hard to see the staff under even more strain than usual especially as it can be difficult for them at home too. They are often very anxious about their families.
What achievements are you most proud of?
I am immensely proud of my team and how mutually supportive they are and how brave and committed. I am very pleased with how we have set up the chapels as calm rooms for staff and our informal chats with staff are helping. I am also proud that despite the restrictions we are managing to be with patients and support relatives by connecting them to family liaison and by being there with patients when the family cannot be.
Please remember we are here for the whole hospital community whether they have a faith or not to provide a friendly listening ear and emotional and spiritual encouragement or support.