By Rev. Brenda Haggett, Janet Stark, and Rev. Barbara Moulton
Think of a time when you have gone the extra mile in your role in healthcare. It doesn’t matter what your health discipline is – I’m sure you can easily identify those moments when your interaction with a patient, client, resident or the family has brought you a profound sense of satisfaction. It doesn’t have to have been earth-shattering or expensive. In fact, it is often the little things that mean so much to the persons who are sick and suffering as well as their families. When we healthcare workers meet a need and see the fruits of that work on the faces of our patients, we know we have helped in facilitating healing. In palliative care, this does not mean “cure.”
One can die “healed” by having a spirit of peace. Nurses who are comfortable and creative in embracing personalized spiritual care receive many gifts. I believe it is a positive thing that we live in an environment where spiritual care includes, but is so much more than, religious care alone.
The following is a collection of three moving incidents that took place recently in hospital palliative care. These stories affirm the value of providing patient-centered care. Ripples of goodwill in going “the extra mile” can profoundly affect the quality of life for the dying and their families. These acts can also become waves that sustain and encourage staff to continue in this intense field of healthcare.
In summary, I was recently at chaplaincy education where I learned that “every encounter has the capacity for healing.” This is a profound concept, and one that I knew integrally, but hadn’t verbalized in such a way. Let’s break down the sentence: Every—each time—we encounter—meet someone—we—ALL—have the capacity—ability—opportunity—for healing. Read that line again. Now we can flesh out that word “healing.” For some, healing means cure. Often it means to come to terms with what is happening. It can mean reaching a place of peace; it can also mean finding spiritual wellness. Spiritual care can be provided in quite simple ways. It can be a genuine smile as we pass one waiting for an appointment; it can be engaging someone with your eyes as you tell them your name; it can be your bedside manner as you administer pain medication; it can be bringing in a CD player and their favorite music; it can be accompanying the pet therapy dog. It can also be when you really listen and participate in simple but genuine conversations. And as we have just read, it can also be helping facilitate a wedding at end of life!
I have seen spiritual care provided by nurses, doctors, housekeepers, chaplains, dietary aides, occupational therapists, administrators, volunteers, visitors, financial analysts and more. Think on these things as you walk the halls or deliver patient care.
Editor’s Note: All of the individuals mentioned in the wedding stores gave full permission to use their names.
Reverend Brenda Haggett is a certified multifaith chaplain and grief services provider. She is currently studying toward a master’s of psychology and counseling. She can be reached at the Brockville General Hospital in Brockville, Ontario, Canada, at [email protected]
Janet Stark is a certified multifaith chaplain and grief services provider and the author of FINAL SCENES: Bedside Tales at End of Life. She can be reached at the Brockville General Hospital in Brockville, Ontario, Canada at [email protected]
Reverend Barbara Moulton is the coordinator of spiritual care at Headwaters Health Care Centre, Orangeville, Ontario, Canada. She can be reached at [email protected]