National Day of Reflection – “This feels significant – we need to try and take stock.”

As part of the National Day of Reflection, we spoke to a few members of staff to get their thoughts on the last 12 months.

Chris van D’Arque is our Head of Chaplaincy and Spiritual Care. He spoke with us about how the Covid-19 pandemic has affected him, and how his spiritual care team have had to adapt.

Chris and his team provide unconditional spiritual and faith-based care to patients, staff, visitors and volunteers. People do not need to think of themselves as ‘religious’ to make use of the service they provide.

“This is a significant moment – so many people have experienced loss over the past 12 months, in many different ways. Everyone is so busy that it can feel impossible to pause and take stock, even if just for a brief moment – but we need to process what has happened and what we have experienced over the past year.

“Some of the experiences of staff have been so, so intense. This is true for myself and my team, and for so many other colleagues across the Trust as well. I’ve been with patients in the last moments of their lives – which, despite the circumstances, being there in person with them is something I view as very special, and an enormous privilege.

“Looking back, we knew so little about Covid-19 compared to what we understand now. I remember speaking with patients on the wards who were lucid and seemingly fine – only to discover the following day they had deteriorated and shortly after had passed away. It was so difficult to fathom, and so challenging for staff, who in many ways felt helpless, as the usual treatments didn’t work. But everyone should feel proud of how they responded – so humane, so kind.

“So many teams were grappling with challenges – with a lack of visitors being one of the most difficult – but staff always sought to find a way to make life for patients, and their relatives, as bearable as possible.

“I have always looked at life as an adventure, and whilst the past 12 months have been so difficult and frankly traumatic at times, there have also been some incredible moments that I will remember forever. I remember being with one woman with Covid-19 who was nearing the end of her life. I was wearing PPE, but I reached out to hold her hand, and she simply said: “Thank you for touching me.” She died a short while later. That is one of the many moments that will stay with me forever.”

“I am looking forward to being with staff who come down to the spiritual care centre on Tuesday (23 March), and I know many people will want to mark the minute’s silence at 12 noon. But people are of course under no pressure to do so – we are here to support people wherever they are and whenever they need us, and we will always go to be where they are.”