We're here for you, now more than ever – a blog from our Chaplaincy team | #TeamBartsHealth blogs

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We're here for you, now more than ever – a blog from our Chaplaincy team

Yunus Dudhwala, Head of Chaplaincy and Bereavement Services at Barts Health, recently spoke with Radio 4 about how chaplaincy services have changed during the pandemic and how they are providing support to patients, families and staff during this difficult time. Here is what he had to say:

“Chaplains have always been here to support patients and staff in times of loss, but we are now having to work differently, making sure we are resilient and ensuring we have our own self-support so we can adapt and help those in need.

“Ordinarily we would receive referrals from palliative care, ITU or wards and we would have a list of patients to go and see. We may also have some wards allocated to us and we would go to see the patients and staff on those wards to provide support. We usually hold prayers and services during day too. This has all changed due to COVID-19 and services have had to be postponed, our prayer rooms closed, we aren’t able to visit wards as regularly and we have to wait for referrals rather than proactively visit the wards.

“Our communication methods with families and patients have also had to change. We either have to be wearing PPE if we are speaking face to face or we provide virtual communication via the use of tablets. While this isn’t as personal as a face to face service, it has enabled us to talk to over thirty family members at a time both in the UK and abroad to provide invaluable support.”

James Grenfell, Chaplain at Whipps Cross Hospital added: “A vitally important part of chaplaincy has always been to offer support to all the staff in the hospital. That support takes on a particular focus and priority in our current, highly-demanding context. There are many strong emotions which surface at times like this and the experience of witnessing the deaths of large numbers of patients can be deeply challenging. Chaplains are available for staff (from all faiths and none) to talk in confidence about any aspect of their work and personal lives. Our experience is that people often value an opportunity simply to talk through what is happening for them at the moment.”

Yunus went on to add: “Funeral processes are also constantly changing. My heart goes out to those who are not able to attend the funerals of loved ones. We can help you to look at how you can use technology to help with this and we can provide comfort and support. This pandemic will live with the world for a long time and we need to support each other to try and cope in these times of loss.

“I have seen some traumatising things in my line of work and we are, as with everyone else on the frontline, anxious about our own safety when we leave our homes to care for patients, staff and families. Many of us continue to struggle with these fears and I’m grateful for my faith which enables me to continue to engage and to hold everyone involved in my prayers.”

To find out more about the chaplaincy service and how you can access it, please visit our website. Staff can also phone the 24/7 chaplaincy staff support hotline on 0208 123 9033.

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