Rethinking hospice chaplaincy: A spiritually motivated response to raw human need

Reverend Dr Steve Nolan is the chaplain at Princess Alice Hospice in Esher and the author of ‘Spiritual Care at the End of Life.

Here, he explores new ways of understanding the roles of hospice chaplains. 

I never met Dame Cicely Saunders. The nearest I came to her was when I visited the chaplain at St Christopher’s, the south London hospice she established. My tour of the hospice had reached the old chapel, and as I chatted with the chaplain, I caught a glimpse of her as she walked slowly passed the chapel door.

Whether Dame Cicely should be considered ‘the founder’ of modern hospice care could be debated. But her dynamism and drive had a significant hand in shaping the direction and values of the nascent movement. Yet she was not the only dynamic woman to have influenced the history of hospice care.

In 1843, Mme Jeanne Garnier opened a home for the dying in Lyon. In Dublin, Sister Mary Augustine inspired first Our Lady’s Hospice for the Dying, which opened in 1879, then further hospices in Australia and Great Britain. And in New York, Mother Alphonsa established St Rose’s Home in 1899. Working independently of each other, these women shared not only a common purpose but a motivation that was inspired by their spiritual beliefs.

Spirituality was clearly one of the key motivators that drove Dame Cicely. In the late 1940s, she converted from agnosticism to a deep evangelical Christian faith, which transformed the way she understood her work. Caring for the sick had always been a priority; following her conversion it became a religious calling.

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“Why Bother? Does it Even Matter?” Read an exclusive extract from Treating Body and Soul

In Peter Wells’ new book, Treating Body and Soul, various healthcare professionals reveal how they meet patients’ spiritual needs in medical settings.

Patients who are facing illness and uncertainty often find themselves reflecting on the bigger questions in life, and the core beliefs or principles they live by. These convictions, religious or otherwise, are integral to a patient’s identity, and consequently to their most fundamental emotional and spiritual needs. Perceptive clinicians have proved that, by recognising and working with their patients’ spiritual requirements, they have been able to significantly improve their patients’ experience in the medical setting.

In this extract, Peter Wells questions why we need to address the needs of the body and the soul in healthcare settings and why this shouldn’t just be the role of the hospital chaplain. He also explains how best to use this book.

Read the exclusive extract from Peter Wells here

For more information on this book, or to buy a copy, please follow this link.