These hospital workers bring health by dealing with our inner beings and disturbances

The spiritual health provider’s role is to be an attentive, caring, empathetic listening presence and offer support where needed. They ensure that the spiritual dimensions of health and healing are provided as part of patient care.

Worker helps patient find sources of strength.
Worker helps patient find sources of strength.

In the same way that other healthcare providers conduct assessments on patients, spiritual health providers conduct spiritual assessments. They look at how illness impacts and shapes someone’s purpose in life. For example, someone may feel that his or her purpose in life is to help others. If that person suffers a stroke, he or she may find they are no longer able to help others as they once did, and experience feelings of frustration or uselessness because they cannot contribute in their usual manner. Spiritual health providers work with people to redefine their purpose, or help them find another way to experience purpose and fulfillment.

Seek sources of strength and courage

Spiritual health providers explore what gives people the strength and courage to face hardships. Inviting people to consider what or who has sustained them in previous experiences of adversity or illness can lead them to an affirmation that they will be able to navigate this challenge as well. People find strength in many places, such as relationships, their belief system or in their community (for example, book club, hockey team, church/synagogue, and more) and the role of the spiritual health provider is to foster those important and sustaining relationships. Sometimes it is the spouse or children of someone who is ill who is looking to offer support and searching for ways to offer their loved one strength and courage; these people also receive attention from spiritual care providers.

Hope is a primary focus and an important part of what gives people strength. Hope may change as the person’s situation changes and thus has to be redefined over and over again. For example, someone who is facing a possible cancer diagnosis may hope that he or she does not have cancer. If that person should find out they do have cancer, they may then hope that it is treatable.

In the context of illness, family history, such as an estrangement, may surface, or there may be unresolved issues in need of forgiveness. Spiritual care providers are attentive to these portions of someone’s story and will try to determine if there is a desire for reconciliation, as well as an opportunity to try to facilitate it, before death. And as a person faces death, spiritual health providers also help facilitate the five important tasks prior to death: I love you, I forgive you, please forgive me, thank you and goodbye.

Offering hope in the darkness

Spiritual health providers may support a patient whose loved one has died, explore an end of life care plan or help staff deal with traumatic situ. They may facilitate Remembrance Day services, memorial services to honour the journey through grief or offer a meditative service at the winter solstice, Hope in the Darkness (Dec. 20).

The role of a spiritual health provider is to be an attentive, caring, empathetic listening presence and offer support where needed. At the core, spiritual health providers ensure that the spiritual dimensions of health and healing are provided in the context of holistic care.

Lynn Granke is manger of spiritual health services at Victoria General Hospital. To support patient care at the Vic, please contact the Victoria General Hospital Foundation at 204-477-3513 or online at
http://www.thevicfoundation.ca.

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