July 20th, 2024

Spiritual Care Team providing care for the soul

By Interfaith Network on May 14, 2021.

These days we regularly see TV footage of health care professionals in hospitals. Yet barely visible is a vital group who provide care for the soul. They are the Spiritual Care Team.

At the Chinook Regional Hospital, I met Roman Catholic Spiritual Care Coordinator Annella Wehlage, who introduced me to Spiritual Health Practitioner John Moerman, as well as Traditional Wellness Coordinator Sylvia Ann Fox and Indigenous Hospital Liaison Suzan Heavyshields of the Indigenous Wellness Core. They explained how they work together and how COVID has changed what they do.

Their daily routine used to begin with a list of the patients who designated a religious affinity on their admittance paperwork. The team then visited each person on the list. However, COVID has changed that. Now patients are allowed just one visitor, usually a family member. A second visitor is permitted in special circumstances, e.g. for legal counsel. A limited number of additional visitors are permitted in end-of-life situations.

So the Spiritual Care Team can only visit when specifically referred, or in an end-of-life situation. “Sometimes if patients get a difficult diagnosis, nurses will request a spiritual care visit,” Wehlage said. The teams have often sat with a person during their final hours. “Nobody wants to be alone when they’re going and that’s when we all come together to assist the patient and the family,” Fox said.

One important aspect of Spiritual Care at CRH is how First Nation’s spirituality may be combined with Christianity. Fox explained, “Some people, their parents were strong Catholics and their grandparents were strong in our traditional ways.” So team members offer both forms of religious care concurrently. “That’s how God created us,” Moerman said, “with a traditional background, a family background, a cultural background, all together.”

The Spiritual Care Team and the Indigenous Wellness Core are clearly cohesive. “We’re friends outside of work, we support one another.”

They also work together to accomplish some extraordinary feats. Fox told of one gravely sick man whose wedding plans were interrupted by his illness. When she visited she found his fianc┼Że present. She asked if there was anything she might help them with and they answered, “We’d like to get married this afternoon!” Fox, Heavyshields and Wehlage executed a frenzy of arrangements, from legal paperwork to securing a priest and arranging a special exemption for two family witnesses. Then they peeped in from the hallway to watch two people realize a dream that COVID couldn’t take from them.

Submitted by Spiritual Care, Chinook Regional Hospital (Excerpted from original article by Alice Matisz in the Calgary Catholic Diocese blog “Faithfully”)

Note: On May 20th at 7 pm, Rev. John Moerman, Spiritual Health Practitioner for Alberta Health Services, South Zone – will be talking about his work supporting patients, families, and staff in AHS facilities in the South Zone and his new leadership role in developing Spiritual Care as a collaborative program across our Zone. Contact Lethbridgeinterfaithnetwork20@gmail.com to request a link for the meeting.

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