Life of a chaplain in a pandemic
Direction Magazine|October 2020
Hospital chaplains have long provided spiritual, practical and pastoral care for patients, carers and staff. But what does this look like during a pandemic? Elim members Carolyn Castle and Debbie Howard share their stories

As chaplains, we’re normally proactive about visiting patients at their bedsides, but this was no longer possible during lockdown because we could have been Covid-19 carriers or spreaders, so we had to work very differently.

Instead, we supported patients by offering prayers and bereavement support over the phone and worked closely with the psychology department and the wellbeing teams.

We made a huge shift towards staff support. You will have seen pictures and news reports about staff and how they were coping; we supported them as much as we could with this. The Health Board set up a recharge room for them to take time out if they needed it and we visited them to see if they needed support.

Staff obviously had many fears and concerns. They were coming into an environment where they were at risk themselves and then going home. Some chose to move out of their family homes, but a lot didn’t. NHS staff are heroes as far as I’m concerned, for what they’ve gone through and how they put themselves at risk for the rest of us.

To help us cope with our workload, I appointed honorary chaplains who were local clergy. They were amazing and I couldn’t have done it without them. They supported us, responding to patient requests and end-of-life situations and had conversations about faith, worries, fears and doubts. They also spent time with staff, giving them a listening ear. For me, the mental and psychological exhaustion was a big challenge – adapting to change so rapidly. Having to be on constant alert is also very draining.

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