VGH is home to world-class health care practitioners: clinician-scientists, nurses, allied health care workers and more who are equipped with the tools and talent to provide care for any injury or disease, no matter how complex or rare.
Yet, sometimes there are equally crucial moments when patients experience problems beyond the physical. Moments when people are struggling to grasp meaning behind what brought them to the hospital in the first place.
They can’t help but ask, “Why is this happening to me?” or “What is the purpose of going through this?” These uncomfortable and often challenging conversations are what Brendan Kelly and the Spiritual Care and Multifaith Services team at VGH are there for—should a patient request it. He and his colleagues are prepared to support patients no matter their faith, or absence of one.
Navigating through muddied waters, together
Brendan is assigned to the mental health program. He starts his day by reviewing his appointments before attending clinical rounds with the health care teams. Typically, his work falls into three categories including weekly check-ins with regular patients. Then, he meets with new patient referrals, which in psychiatry makes up the bulk of his sessions. Finally, he leaves space in his calendar for urgent referrals, which are unexpected yet important connections to make.
Each meeting, says Brendan, can never truly be predicted.
“The thing with spiritual care is it could be the most deep and meaningful conversation you can have with someone, or you’re perhaps saying hello, meeting a person for the first time, and simply developing rapport for future interactions,” says Brendan. “There’s no such thing as a typical day, but every interaction, big or small is foundational to building healing relationships.”
Though no two conversations are the same, the common threads for Brendan are supporting people who are hurting, who are struggling, and who need someone to speak with. His role in these moments is not as someone who has the answers, but as a host for conversation to help individuals navigate through muddied waters, together.
“We’re trained and have the resources to give space, time and value to the questions that people are often forced to face when dealing with a health crisis,” says Brendan. “Spiritual Care is about hosting those conversations and companioning people in difficult territory so they can feel safe and empowered to find their own way, and find their inner strength.”
Finding your inner strength
Brendan has seen that strength can come from anywhere. He recalls a conversation where a patient was struggling with the “feeling of being stuck inside” for long periods of time. When they met with Brendan, they expressed how they find deep comfort in nature and missed being outside.
“Listening and advocating for fundamental spiritual connection alongside the hospital staff we were able to find times in the day where this person could be helped outside,” says Brendan. “I took them to a nearby park to be in the presence of nature. And I could see the profoundly positive impact this had on this person.”
To Brendan, Spiritual Care is a key aspect of care that helps facilitate the healing provided by the inter-professional team. They work to help inspire and empower individuals, so they can face the trials ahead with strength and dignity.
“If you’re struggling, we’re here to help you find meaningful ways to cope” says Brendan. “And we will do our best for anyone who asks for it.”
A Multidisciplinary Team
The team at VGH is part of a regional VCH Spiritual Care Services program. Currently at VGH there are 3 interfaith spiritual health practitioners and 7 part-time students, supported by regional leads. Community clergy provide denominational care. Collectively, the needs of all patients are supported.