15 February, 2021

A referral to Hospice often leads patients to ponder life’s twists and turns, and what the coming months may hold. As these thoughts often contain a spiritual component, it is the task of the hospice spiritual carer to help patients explore these insights at a deeper level.

Harbour Hospice has two spiritual care coordinators, Jacqui Ryan and Vincent Maire. Both are part of the Patient and Family Support team and contribute to the holistic care that is a feature of the hospice movement worldwide.

Vincent and Jacqui chaplains web

Jacqui says spiritual care complements the medical, psychological and social support that other staff offer patients and their caregivers.

“We work with people of all faiths and no faith. Everyone has a spiritual aspect to their lives and for some, coming into hospice care provides a first ever opportunity to explore life at a deeper level.”

Hospice spiritual care comes with no agenda other than to help patients and family members make meaning of what can be a stressful time. Listening, befriending, reflecting are common features of spiritual care.

“Being with rather than doing is a good way to describe how we work,” says Vincent. “Being comfortable working with and in silence is a core skill. Helping people to walk a journey that is true to them is essential and often we find ourselves supporting the patient’s caregiver more so than the patient.”

An essential part of the role is networking with faith communities in our region.

“Should someone from a particular faith tradition – such as Islam – come into our care, it is essential we know who to contact if the patient wants support from someone of their own faith,” explains Jacqui. “We may call a minister to advise that a parishioner has come into Hospice and wishes to see them. The goal is always to support the patient in whatever way they want.”

In addition to supporting patients and families, Jacqui and Vincent are regularly called on to run training courses for staff and volunteers. “Ensuring the spiritual dimension of hospice holistic care is available to all is of paramount importance,” adds Vincent.