Revered Chris van D’Arque, Head of Chaplaincy and Spiritual Care

During the Covid-19 outbreak, staff from across the Trust are having to work in new and innovative ways to keep our patients and staff safe.

Revered Chris van D’Arque is our Head of Chaplaincy and Spiritual Care, and he has worked at the Trust since 2018.

What does your role normally involve?

It’s a real mixture. We see patients every day, in nearly every part of the hospital, and work closely with our bereavement support service, and funeral ministry. In the afternoons, we tend to focus more on relatives and carers, as they often need care and support. As important, we are also here for any staff who need us.

We’re available 24/7, so you’ll regularly find us in the hospital in the evenings, and during night time. We have a really wonderful group of Spiritual Care Team volunteers as well, who partner with us to provide multi-faith-based care. Their support is so important, as they mean we can reach more patients within the hospital than we would be able to achieve alone. We also partner with some wards and departments to provide more specialised spiritual care, and support that is tailored toward patient needs.

Throughout the week, we normally provide faith-based gathered acts of corporate prayer, services of worship for patients, visitors and staff; evidence-based Mindfulness and Meditation sessions are also facilitated within the Spiritual Care Centre at St George’s.

What has changed about your role given the current situation?

Everything, in the same way it has for everyone else. We are all, in our own way, exploring new territory.

We have had to risk-assess for health and wellbeing, and to reduce the risk of infection, valued colleagues and volunteers have temporarily left the service and their roles alongside us in the hospital. All gathered activities within the Spiritual Care Centre here at St George’s have also ceased.

But we are very much still here for those who need us, and that’s important. We’ve introduced phone and FaceTime clinics for patients’ relatives and carers, who are facing a particularly difficult time given the restrictions we’ve had to put in place for visitors, for example.

We’ve also recruited colleagues from the community, who have kindly volunteered to partner with us to provide multi-faith support for patients in our care. They are being trained and mentored to provide care in this new clinical landscape we find ourselves in. Nothing is the same really – even our dress code has radically changed.

What support do people want from you and your team?

Hope. Encouragement. Presence.

Of course, everyone is different and for this reason our care is always centred on the needs of the individuals in our care. For people of faith, the fact chaplains are here in the hospital offers relatives a way to ensure that their loved ones’ are cared for, and supported in line with their faith practice. There’s something about our proximity too, and people take comfort from the fact that we will go to be where their loved ones are.

For our colleagues, many are suddenly working in new and different roles to the ones they had before Coronavirus. So our regular presence out-and-about and on the wards offers a touch point for staff as well, whether they are people of faith or no faith. We are where they are. And for some people, its just a quick bit of banter and a laugh, it just releases tensions.

Has anything really surprised/impressed you?

The toilet roll thing. What is that all about?! The commitment of colleagues who are caring for their patients with compassion in a completely changed hospital environment is totally inspirational. It’s a privilege to work alongside them.

How do you cope with a long and difficult day ?

Our faith, each other, a sense of humour – and caffeine!