'Help people find moments of beauty within the trauma': BHRUT chaplain supports staff during pandemic
- Credit: BHRUT
The chaplaincy team at Barking, Havering and Redbridge University Hospitals Trust is a source of support for patients and their families, but throughout the pandemic they have become a vital lifeline to their beleaguered staff.
The staff at both Queen's Hospital in Romford and King George in Goodmayes have been dealing with a staggering number of Covid patients and deaths.
The chaplains offer support through 'Let It Out' sessions, providing a listening ear over a coffee, or holding a debrief after a team at King George saw seven deaths in just a single day.
They offer support to all staff, whether they are religious or not.
Alison Horncastle, who has been a chaplain for the last eight years, said: "Some people think we're just here to pray with them or afraid we're going to try and convert them.
"Of course, the religious side is there if that's what's wanted, but I'm not going to hit anyone over the head with my bible.
"We are there to give support and a listening ear. It's more important now than ever to look after ourselves.
"We all know you can't care for others if not."
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She encourages staff not to get to a crisis point before asking for help and instead to acknowledge when they are getting stressed, knowing their triggers and how to act on it.
Alison explained a lot of hospital staff are struggling with the speed at which some patients can deteriorate - from seeing them enjoying their breakfast and then dying before lunch.
As well as supporting staff the chaplaincy team have enabled patients to speak to their loved ones via donated iPads, picked up messages and packages left at the front desk, and read patients their Christmas cards.
Alison added: “We’ve seen entire families wiped out by this virus. Seeing people lose both parents is very sad and on three occasions recently we’ve seen couples die very close together."
The chaplaincy team has learned lessons from the first wave, ensuring junior doctors are well supported after several struggled in the early days of the pandemic, as well as new starters who may find it traumatic, having not worked in a hospital before.
She added: “The role of a chaplain is to help people find moments of beauty within the trauma.”