Why pastoral care is integral to healthcare

In public and military hospitals, prisons, and hospices, when push comes to shove, there are not many who will rebuff a visit from the friendly Chaplain.

These caring individuals provide spiritual nourishment by listening to all our fears and anxieties, a willing confidante giving us the opportunity to discuss existential questions in a non-threatening environment and someone offering general or faith-specific comfort.

A visit from one of them can often bring hope and unexpected healing.

I found this so for my dad during his final few weeks spent in a local hospice, as he initiated discussions with his family, the nursing staff and the chaplain about spirituality and life after death as he'd never done before. He passed with newfound confidence and no fear.

As Australia marks Pastoral Care Week, chaplaincy programs around the country are reviewing their practices in order to reach out to anyone who needs spiritual care, whatever their faith background or personal beliefs.

One Hobart hospital is finding growing receptivity from patients for this loving service that reaches out to our diverse spiritual landscape.

Increasingly, spiritual care is seen as an essential component of healing in hospitals around the world. This year for the first time a US hospital received the Excellence in Spiritual Care Award, signifying its commitment to identifying and optimally addressing patients' spiritual and religious needs.

Recognition of patient needs in the area of spirituality is such that healthcare chaplains in the US have also started using online chats to offer spiritual support and to extend their reach to outpatients, discharged patients, military veterans and their families.

However, a spokesperson for this project was quick to explain that wherever chaplains are, at the bedside or the other end of a video camera, it's about the human connection.

While the human connection is so important, there's evidence that feeling a connection to the Divine is what brings about true healing.

For example, as her mother's guardian in later years, a woman faced a decision whether to give permission for doctors to amputate her mother's leg.

Based on her past experience, this woman sought pastoral care from a proven source of inspiration, comfort, and healing--the Bible and Science and Health, a book that provides a key to unlocking the Bible's meaning and explains the spiritual science behind our divinely derived nature and abilities.

She had long realised the mental nature of health and that "(t)he effect of this Science is to stir the human mind to a change of base on which it may yield to the harmony of the divine Mind."

A friend who shared her spiritual understanding prayed with her. Insights were inspiring and included her mother's true identity as a compound spiritual idea, expressing spiritual qualities "knit together" perfectly by divine Love (see Colossians 2).

The doctors didn't mention amputation again, and the woman's mother was discharged. When X-rays were taken months later the surgeon expressed his disbelief that the bones in her mother's leg had fully knit together and there was no more pain. http://sentinel.christianscience.com/shared/view/2inbqurtt6e?s=e

In his recent book, Dr James Doty, Neurosurgeon at Stanford University Medical Center, argues that true healing is both biological and spiritual. He is one of a growing group of voices that are encouraging people to think differently about healing and healthcare.

Although often inexplicable to them, medical professionals may be the last people to dismiss the possibility of remission and healing. Open-minded support for holistic, multidisciplinary care will go far to meeting the individual's need for healing.

But spiritual healing, in which the patient comes to understand his or her relationship to divine Love, encompasses all other healing, and may one day be seen as primary, not secondary.

"Mind transcends all other power, and will ultimately supersede all other means in healing," writes spiritual thinker and author of Science and Health, Mary Baker Eddy.

Health Columnist, Kay Stroud, writes about the connection between consciousness, spirituality and health and practises Christian Science healing www.health4thinkers.com

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