Chaplains working in hospitals see people at their most vulnerable and at their strongest every single day.
And, during the coronavirus lockdown, the healthcare chaplains at Ninewells Hospital have had to step up and make sure everyone was supported in their hour of need.
The Tele spoke to Stephen Steiner and Andrew Bennett about their experiences of helping staff, patients and relatives through the many emotions they can feel when they are in hospital.
Stephen said: “I am not sure there is a normal day for a healthcare chaplain.
“We see people at their most vulnerable and in their greatest hour of need.
“There are so many emotions when a person comes into hospital, there is fear and anxiety, a loss of independence and a loss of control, so we need to be there to support them.
“If someone has had a diagnosis and doesn’t know how to tell their family, we help them, or if there is a young mother we can talk through how they are feeling – sometimes we are the first people to ask them that.
“We come alongside people and give them an opportunity to talk things through, but we never impose ourselves.”
Stephen added: “Chaplains are historically associated with death, dying and bereavement, but the scope of our work is so much more now, such as helping people to come to terms with a diagnosis, supporting people who are receiving treatment for their illness, and supporting staff.
“That’s a big thing for us, we need to recognise and acknowledge there is a need to care for the carers.
“There are a lot of rewards in this job but it can be rewarding, demanding and challenging all in the same day.
“But for me it is a privilege to do this job.”
Andrew Bennett said during the lockdown, chaplains had to stand in the place of loved ones and relatives because visiting was restricted.
He also said he had to help staff members deal with the enormity of working on the front line during a pandemic.
He said: “I went to visit Covid-19 patients and end-of-life Covid-19 patients, and that was the most different experience that I have had in the sense that this illness doesn’t look like anything else I had ever seen before.
“I had to stand at someone’s bedside because their family couldn’t visit them, and pass on their last messages because they were dying.
“It was short, but exceedingly emotional. I had to fill that gap.
“It was difficult for families, but comforting to know we could pass on their messages and tell them their loved one was not in distress and was peaceful.
“It was the most stretching thing I have had to do.”
Andrew continued: “All of the people working in the health service were still going into work throughout the lockdown.
“There was a high degree of anxiety over the anticipated challenges and making sure everyone was ready for what was to come, and waiting for that to come was hard for people.
“We would talk about these anxieties with staff and I specifically chose to go around the intensive care and Covid areas to support staff.
“There were a lot of nurses with young families who were trying to manage home schooling on top of all of this.
“Some parts of the hospital were very quiet while others were extremely busy with people being stretched to a really great degree.
“One day I spoke to a renal nurse who had spent six hours in PPE with no break.
“But then you went into other wards and they were functioning at 50% capacity – the people in those wards found it quite hard when people wanted to applaud the NHS workers because they felt they were doing less than what they normally do.
“But all healthcare staff were courageous to come into work and face the unknown, something that could potentially adversely affect them and their loved ones at home.
“It took courage for them to walk from the car park into the hospital every day.”