Hospital chaplains provide vital support during Covid-19
Five local priests are volunteering as Hospital Chaplains to provide support to staff and patients at hospitals within Cwm Taf Morgannwg University Health Board.
Following appeals to local clergy asking for volunteers to work with Chaplaincy and Spiritual Care Departments during the Covid-19 pandemic, twelve Honorary Chaplains were recruited from different denominations.
Volunteers from Diocese of Llandaff include, Fr David Morris, Rev Angela Cooper, Fr Mark Broadway, Fr Benjamin Rabjohns and Rev Jude Bevan. They visit hospital sites offering much needed spiritual and pastoral care to staff and patients.
Fr Mark Broadway explains his motivation for joining, “None of us can do everything, but all of us can do something.”
Thinking about friends working in the NHS gave him added impetus,
They are all working so hard. I wanted to offer something.
For Rev Dr Angela Cooper, her motivation was a desire to do more to help, “At the start of lockdown, I wanted to find something that I could do to help in this pandemic. When an email arrived from the diocese for chaplaincy volunteers, I had a genuine sense that this is something I could do. In training for ministry, I had tried to get a hospital chaplaincy placement, and it never worked out, but this time it seemed the perfect time.”
A typical day
Volunteers work in different hospitals with varied shift patterns, but for them, a typical day involves signing in at the switchboard, calling in at the chapel, checking for messages, and discussing their day with the lead chaplain. Volunteers are given an induction and shown how to wear the correct PPE (including masks, gloves and aprons). Regulations and procedures are strict, but with good reason, especially during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Rev Angela says, “As volunteer chaplains, we spend some time in the recharge room offering a listening ear for the challenges the staff are facing. They may request us to visit patients on the non-covid wards. This is important, as patients can’t have family visitors during the lockdown, as the Cwm Taf Morgannwg University Health Board follows Government guidance on hospital visiting. We work alongside the permanent chaplain, Hilary Pritchard, helping her with day-to-day tasks.”
The 'wobble room'
The Princess of Wales Hospital in Bridgend now has three rooms where chaplains can offer support to staff members. A spiritual care centre, often described as the “wobble room”, has a chaplain available for part of each day. A wellbeing hub has a councillor available, and a refreshment room offers tea and coffee.
Making staff a priority and signposting the rooms and services available, is often a key part of the chaplaincy role according to Fr Mark, “I’m letting them know that we’re there to support them.” He added, “I’ve had some very positive conversations with managers and ward sisters.”
Highlighting the benefits it brings to both the hospital staff and chaplaincy volunteers, he described a memorable interaction in the Princess of Wales Hospital in Bridgend,
A nurse stopped me and said, ‘will you remember me and my team in your prayers?'
"For me it was an incredible moment. For someone like that to see the value in prayer and the engagement that can come from that.”
Fr Ben said it was important to be available and be visible, “People will talk if they want to,” When asked about support to patients, Fr David described the principal purpose as being available when called upon, “If you get the phone call, you go immediately”.
Interaction with patients can take many forms, from conversations, to prayers and Psalm readings. Revd Broadway said he found Psalm 46 is popular:
God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.
When asked about finding the right prayers, he recommended the Lord’s Prayer, as people know it, even if they are not regular churchgoers. He also advised sticking to, “short set prayers that don’t meander.”
Chaplaincy volunteering is bringing benefits to Cwm Taf Morgannwg University Health Board and to the clergy answering the call to support. Rev Carolyn Castle, Lead Chaplain, said, “I cannot thank them enough for their willingness to work alongside us during this challenging time. We could not do this work alone, their help has been invaluable, and their servant hearts are evident. Please continue to pray for them and indeed all chaplaincy teams at this time.”
Summing up his experience of volunteering, Fr David described it as an honour,
There’s something important about being part of an effort to reassure families, by enabling them to know that someone was there with their loved one when they died. It’s the privilege of a priest and something I value.
Read Rev Angela Cooper's blog to read more of her experience as Hospital Chaplain.