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Oxford University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust

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Thank You - Chaplaincy

11/05/2020

Chaplains are integral members of our healthcare team, employed to care for the pastoral and spiritual needs of the whole hospital community - regardless of their beliefs.

The team includes members from the major Christian and Muslim faiths, but they serve people of all faiths and none. As they say, 'We're here for everyone'.

In normal times a significant part of their work is contact with patients on our wards, and also support for our staff through either brief chats or more in-depth conversations about their lives, and about working in a very emotionally charged environment.

They also help to teach our staff about the spiritual and religious aspects of care at the end of life.

In some cases a Chaplain might attend a multidisciplinary team meeting, where this is felt to be appropriate: referrals can come from patients themselves, their family members or carers, or ward staff and faith group leaders.

Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, things have changed a lot for our Chaplains, four of whom are now not able to be present in our hospitals due to shielding or underlying health conditions.

To address this, they have set up a dedicated telephone line for patients, carers, relatives and staff, open from 9.00am to 4.00pm every day. Soon they also hope to make and receive video calls.

Every weekday at 12 noon, in at least one of our hospital chapels or prayer spaces, a candle is lit, and prayers and words of remembrance are said for those who have died in the Trust, their loved ones, and for the staff who cared for them. The prayers are available on the Trust website for people who would like to take part from home.

Chaplains have always been on call 24 hours a day, seven days a week, but now this support is provided over the telephone. The team has also sent messages to ward staff, offering help and support at this extremely challenging time, and there are short videos uploaded to YouTube.

The Revd Sarah Sewell, Lead Chaplain, explains: "All of us feel sorry that we can't be at the bedside as we normally are, especially in end of life situations. We all became healthcare Chaplains in order to be with people when they are in greatest need.

"The most difficult decision I have had to make as a hospital Chaplain was to stop the visiting of patients on the wards, because of the risk that we might spread the virus ourselves.

"The work that we are doing by telephone at least gives us some feeling of being there, to support people when they are scared and isolated."

In a message to the Chaplaincy team, a patient's family member wrote:

"Thank you so much for your kindness. It really helped my mother and myself to be able to pray... with you. COVID-19 has meant we could not spend time with [our loved one] during his last days. Knowing you had lit a candle for him, and we prayed together, was a great comfort."

Thank you to all our Chaplains, for what you do.

Pictured: Rachel Hughes (left) and Fiona Hall from the OUH Chaplaincy team