Sunday 14 December 2008
Some Thoughts On Visiting.
It’s most likely that you’ll come into the hospital one of two ways, either by invitation from a particular patient or via the chaplaincy office when they discover a Pagan patient is asking for specific spiritual help. In either case it’s wise to make your first visit to the hospital via an appointment with the Chaplaincy office, for several reasons.
You will discover who the lead Chaplain is and she will discover who you are.
She can introduce you, the ward and other staff to each other which will facilitate your work no end.
You and she can discuss your work so that she finds out more about Paganism and you have someone to pass questions by.
If you don’t already have one she can advise you about getting a Criminal Records Bureau check (CRB)
which you will need if you’re going to do more than one
or two visits.
Here’re some pointers to consider.
1. Spend some time thinking about the purpose of your visit. Talk with a trusted friend or group of friends about it, people who’re up to more vigorous discussion than “Oh you’ll be great, you’re such a good person!” Get your intent really clear.
2. It’s important to hear, from the patient, what they think the purpose of your visit is.
3. Consider how you’re going to present yourself. Please don’t wear ritual clothing and kilos of Pagan jewellery. Personally, I’ve never felt the need to even wear a pentagram to draw attention to the fact that I Am A Pagan Chaplain. You’re there to quietly and unobtrusively be of service to a vulnerable person; drawing attention to them in a ward of strangers is not being of service to them. Also, don’t wear perfume, which can make ill people feel more ill.
4. Always phone the ward office first to let them know you’re coming and to negotiate a good time for you, the patient and the ward.
5. When you arrive on the ward, always go to the ward office first to let them know you’re there and to make sure that it’s still all right to visit. You don’t want to embarrass a patient who may be in the middle of something intimate. Never ever walk through closed doors or pulled curtains before checking and re-checking with the nurses.
6. You’re a guest of the patient. Be grounded, sensitive, polite and unpatronising to them and to other patients around them. Make gentle eye contact.
7. Think about where and how you place yourself. It’s almost never good to sit on the bed and you may just have to pull the chair around so you and the patient can see each other’s face.
8. Don’t touch any equipment, but do consider touching the patient at some point. People in hospital are seldom touched at any time other than to do something medical. Get over the ‘sexual assault’ paranoia, and just touch or hold a hand (that doesn’t have an IV in it) in a centred, reassuring manner without making a fuss.
9. Every visit will require a different amount of time. I’ve spent 2 or three hours with some patients and at times just going to the bedside, saying hello and asking if they need anything will be enough.
10. Listen, listen listen. Some of what you hear may be distressing. You’ve chosen to enter into a potentially distressing role, so contain it without withdrawing from the situation. Avoid frivolity.
11. If a patient complains about their care they may be right. But don’t undermine the staff. If you’re any doubt, talk with the lead Chaplain.
12. You may well be interrupted. Don’t assert your right to the patient but reassure them that you will visit again.
13. Wash your hands before visiting and after. If you find yourself with nothing to do, wash your hands.
Things to consider after a visit.
1. Timetable in a period of reflection after the visit. The multifaith room or chapel is an excellent place to do this. Talk with Deity. The purpose of this time is to be mindful of the importance of your meeting, to remember and even write down anything that you’ve been asked to do, and then to put the meeting to one side.
2. Maintain confidentiality. This is particularly important when talking with other Pagans and people outside of an official role beyond the hospital.
3. Where do you get your support? In this context support means a safe and supportive, professional meeting where you can express and experience your feelings in depth. It doesn’t mean being surrounded by people who think you’re great. Having a trusted person or group of people who will be loyal and honest is central to your continued good practice.