This is why we need spiritually sensitive hospitals

04/11/2018 at 4:28 pm | Posted in Healing, Uncategorized | 2 Comments
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Here is a list of hospitals my son has visited. He stayed in all but three of these, which means that I have also stayed in all but three of these: Queen Mary’s Roehampton, Kingston, Royal Brompton, Great Ormond Street, Chippenham, Royal United, Wolfson Children’s, Great Western, Cheltenham General, Gloucestershire Royal, Churchill. Two of these hospitals involved prolonged stays in intensive care units. Together, they have spanned two continents. And in total they have added up to something over six months.

His dad and I, and all our family, have been extremely grateful for the care that he received. I wonder, though, looking back at over half a year of plastic mattresses and iv fluids, whether our son, the countless patients we met along the way, and their families, might have benefitted from a more overtly spiritual perspective.

According to research recently published in the Journal of Intensive Care Medicine (Ho et al, 2018): ‘There is a growing body of evidence that attending to the spiritual needs of patients and their families can improve outcomes including the quality of life, and several guidelines suggest spiritual care should be part of comprehensive health delivery. However, in practice, spiritual care is often overlooked in the management of critically ill patients.’

The Chambers English Dictionary defines the word ‘spiritual’ as:

‘Belonging, referring or relating to the spirit or soul rather than to the body or to physical things…’

And what does the dictionary mean by ‘spirit’?

‘The animating or vitalising essence or force that motivates, invigorates or energises someone or something…’

Look after the spirit

I humbly suggest that looking after the spirit that animates a person will help that person to recover. Going further, if that person is not going to recover, looking after their spirit will help them to die a good death – to be at peace at the end of life.

Spirituality, in my experience, is not a priority in hospitals. It has been largely absent from any of the wards and units my son has stayed in. There have, thankfully, been nurses and/or doctors in most (not all) of those places who have worked hard to promote emotional wellbeing. Going further, religion has been offered, but that’s not quite the same thing. As Chambers says, religion is: ‘A belief in, or the worship of, a god or gods’.

Behind the scenes, quietly, I have sensed that individual members of staff hold philosophies that prompt them unobtrusively to support a patient’s spirit – through a stillness and taking of time, through meditative techniques such as prayer or listening. But these are individual decisions, and rarely if ever shared with others.

At the other end of the scale, I have witnessed critically ill patients in a state of fearful delirium – a distressing way to transition from life.

That sense of unity

Spirituality could be described as a transcendent feeling that one is an indivisible part of the universe. It can be as simple as looking at a beautiful sunset and feeling a sense of purpose and connectedness. Or it might mean looking at another person and realising that they are simply another manifestation of the life force that animates you and everyone you love.

As a practising healer, registered with the NFSH Healing Trust, I have brought spirituality to my son in every ward that he has stayed in. But I have been unobtrusive. Occasionally I have alluded to healing methods, and my words have almost always been ignored, or invalidated with comments such as: “Well, it won’t do any harm”. When my son has fared better than medical staff expected, even surviving against the odds, there has never been any follow-up, no attempt to learn anything of the spiritual dimension that I perceive has been a factor in his recovery.

I have noticed on numerous ward rounds and outpatient appointments that medical staff rely on forms with boxes that they can tick. Fluids? Tick. Bowel movement? Tick. Antibiotics? Tick. So here is my simple request: please, dear medical staff, make sure ‘spiritual wellbeing’ is on your list of things to tick. Be sure to ask open, non-judgemental questions that will enable your patients and their families to open up about the things that will help their spiritual wellbeing.

Find out more

Spiritual Care in the Intensive Care Unit: a Narrative Review. Ho et al, Journal of Intensive Care Medicine, 2018, Vol 33(5), 279-287.

Some healers do currently work in hospitals. You can find healers through The Healing Trust, which is the largest membership association of accredited healers in the UK.

Connect with Suzanne Askham on Twitter.

Photo: rawpixel/Unsplash

 

 

 

 

 

2 Comments »

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  1. Thanks Suzanne. Not much is actually written about these needs in patients. I have friends who work in hospitals, and anything spiritual, or ‘healing’ is frowned upon. I personally have taught Reiki and Seichim for nearly 30years, and Angelic Reiki for 8 years. All of these and more I regularly use on a weekly basis with people who come to me, and all have experienced great benefits, and yes, we do talk about what they are fearing, or worrying about. We also talk about anything that seems to be hindering their total wellbeing. I find most people love reassurance, and a heart that listens to them…really listens…and they respond beautifully to this. I love that you could do this for your son, and thus help in his recovery. Even if we all do our little bit here and there, it is still invaluable to those on the receiving end. Thanks for sharing, I wish we could all be accepted along with the doctors care….wouldn’t THAT be WONDERFUL! Sending you Blessings and Angel Hugs from Australia, Barbara xxxxx

    • It’s encouraging to hear how active you are as a healer, Barbara. Here’s hoping that hospitals start to become more spiritually sensitive – there’s certainly evidence that patients and families would benefit. Stay well, and keep doing your valuable work.xxx


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