Chaplains Share the Wealth to Aid Patient Wellbeing

The Northern Ireland Healthcare Chaplains Association (NIHCA) has distributed to Chaplains in all HSC Trusts and Hospices a range of resources intended for the support of their patients which have been purchased using NIHCA members’ funds and money allocated to them by Robin Swann and the Department of Health from the Covid-19 budget.

Altogether the NIHCA has been able to provide approximately £15,000 worth of resources, including donated items, to support Chaplains in the care of their patients. These have been distributed in equal proportion across the province and include resources created and produced by Chaplains themselves.

I am very grateful to my Chaplaincy and NIHCA colleagues for their encouragement and support in gathering and distributing these resources, culminating in a mammoth effort on Wednesday 24th June, with Chaplains travelling from all over the province to Musgrave Park Hospital Church to pick up their allocations. Particular thanks goes to NIHCA Treasurer Sanna Mallon, and to NIHCA Secretary Deaconess Heather McCracken, whose unstinting efforts ensured a smooth operation.

Among the resources circulated where Bibles for the Children’s Hospice, Prayer Cards and Colouring Books by Naomi McClelland (My Painted Bear), Patient and Staff Support Booklets by Chaplain Vivienne Manley, Memory Books for palliative use, devotional resources suitable for all Christian denominations, together with the ART-Pack Creativity Journals and Seven Day Devotional Journals produced in Belfast Trust by myself and our multidisciplinary team. In partnership with the Pavestone Centre in Coleraine, we are producing 1000 “Holding Crosses”, which will be distributed throughout the year. We have supplied study books for each Trust to enable Chaplains, who pursue post-graduate training, to be supported in their endeavour.

Chaplains in many hospitals have remained in front line service throughout the recent pandemic alongside their clinical colleagues, and have been at the forefront in provision of guidance for Chaplaincy across the UK, the delivery of patient care, ethics in the management of the pandemic locally, and in the creation and distribution of resources and care packs designed to support patients, families and staff throughout the Health Service in Northern Ireland.

On a personal note, and in my capacity as Director of Training for the NIHCA, and organiser of the distribution of these resources, may I pay tribute to the late Mr Gordon Dunne MLA, for arranging the meeting with the Department of Health on January 13th which led to the award of £25000 for the NIHCA. Let me also pay tribute to Health Minister Mr Robin Swann for taking time to meet our delegation, for his understanding of the value of Chaplaincy and for the tangible support for Chaplaincy in Northern Ireland which emerged from that meeting.

Recent research through the Lothian Report has shown that Chaplaincy brings added value to Healthcare, which when extrapolated out means more than one third of a cost saving per patient engagement. Effectively, Chaplaincy saves the Health Service much more than it spends on providing it. It is becoming evident, post-pandemic, that staff and families benefit too, often finding it easier and less formal to talk with Chaplains about the unique stresses and pressures they have been under because of the Coronavirus crisis.

Through the NIHCA Chaplains aim to progressively raise the standard of professionalism within their service, encouraging their members, where possible, to achieve national Professional Standards Agency (PSA) accreditation through training and courses of study. It also supports Chaplains who seek accreditation in Ireland with CAB (Chaplains Accreditation Board) and HCB (Healthcare Chaplains Board). The NIHCA represents Chaplains across all traditions, and takes account of the greater religious diversity in our society today, which is why resources distributed include items for those of other faith or belief groups, as well as the range of Christian denominations.

Remember to access Chaplaincy services and the resources available to you if you become an inpatient.  The values of all Health and Social Care Trusts in Northern Ireland include a commitment to provide holistic, person-centred care, which means they are committed to ensuring that spiritual and religious care needs are being met when you need it most: when you, or your loved one’s health, reaches a point of crisis.

As Christian Chaplains the opportunity to share with people that God is a very present help in their time of crisis is a tremendous privilege. It feeds and fills my own soul when I see how adversity draws out, in the context of people’s weakness, the reality of God’s wonderful perfection and the loving graciousness of His strong presence.

In the words of the Prophet Zephaniah, ch.3 v.17: “The Lord your God is with you; He is mighty to save; He takes great delight in you; He quiets you with His love; and He rejoices over you with singing.” Adversity often leads us to discover more deeply the reality of who God is. He makes His presence felt: the Lord Jesus – Immanuel – God with us. He is our closest companion, He has the power and authority to redeem every situation. He is the Great Physician and has a Fatherly oversight and care. His loving presence through the Holy Spirit comforts us and quiets us, and ultimately causes us to rejoice together with Him that we do not face adversity alone and without support. I am thankful to be an agent of His work as a Healthcare Chaplain, and through my newest role as a Lead Chaplain, to be able to build a team to provide for the needs of Patients, Families and Staff in the Northern HSC Trust. God meets us in the storms of life: some storms He stills, others He rides out with us. So, whatever storms you are facing you can be sure they will be experiences through which you will come to know God more closely and more deeply. Indeed, he will ensure that your experience of the storm will be worked into His redemptive purposes for you and for those around you. Blessings and greetings to you all from the NIHCA.”   

Norman Harrison