Blog- Spiritual Care in the Corona Ward
In these demanding times of the Corona virus, we all find ourselves in situations which we never would have faced in the past. I found myself offering to work in the Covid 19 wards as a Spiritual Caregiver. I was concerned about the isolation and loneliness of the patients, staff and families, facing illness and life and death situations, and also believing that it was good for our profession as Spiritual Caregivers, I offered to work there, as well as the other hospital units where I work.
My colleague Gal Sadot, was able to start in August, I started in October. At first it was all about the spacesuit, how do you communicate through layers of protection, when the patient can see a white shape, with eyes under various layers of plastic. For me it is hot, and claustrophobic, I have to be very mindful about breathing, walking and not panicking. My heart goes out to the staff who spend long hours in the protective suit.
"I do not know if you are religious or secular, young or old, but I know you are listening and care."
I visited a woman, call her Leah, who had a very good insight, as a patient about the spacesuit. "I do not know if you are religious or secular, young or old, but I know you are listening and care." She pointed out the advantage to the protective gear. This is what I want with all patients, a feeling that they can open up across any cultural divides. This is what is so spiritual about this work, the human soul, meets another human soul and shares their pain.
There has also been joy in the Corona ward. Last week I saw in the computer that there was a woman who had just given birth by C-section. How lonely she must be, I thought to myself and rushed into my spacesuit. She was extremely weak, on oxygen, and had been separated from her baby and taken straight to the Corona ward. He was put in the hospital nursery, the father was in isolation at home with the baby's older sisters. She was elated to be alive, to have a healthy baby, and was weakly making jokes about how she would "cater" the circumcision ceremony all by herself by ordering on her phone. She spoke of the meaning in her life, a girl, twins, and this baby, all by IVF. We spoke of her loss of the contact with the baby and sadness at not being able to breast feed. Yesterday I went back to support her just before the brit. She was reading Psalms and choosing names. We spoke about the uplift which the Psalms gave her. Particularly, “I have cried out from my narrow place, answer me in a the wide space of the Holy!” Psalms 118:5
She shed tears and also spoke about her gratitude for being alive, how she was now going to savor every second with the family.
The staff in the Corona wards work long shifts, 12 hours at time, and face complex illness, and death. Gal and I have met with them twice now. They are young, although some of the support staff who attends is older. After a guided meditation and relaxation/breathing session, we read a poem in Hebrew and in Arabic , and each participant said how she or he connected to the sentiments expressed. One young nurse with beautiful curls spoke about how she had no time anymore for beach walks. Another said she cried at home and couldn't focus on her family. A Russian speaker had everyone in giggles as she shared her counting techniques before attending to patients’ needs to calm herself. We all saw her wisdom and humor. One young nurse was very quiet. When asked to share, she said that she had "lost it" with a patient who was very demanding. She spoke about lack of balance. The group responded kindly, with support, no judgment and encouraged everyone to work on self care and balance. We discussed techniques. Everyone said, we must meet next week in order to stay sane and balanced. Everyone was invited to value their balance to work and to take beach walks, to meditate, listen to music, dance, exercise, play, wonder at nature.
The staff did say that they support each other and there have been a few thoughtful acts by the administration to supply them with comfortable places to rest of in the staff room after several hours in full protective gear, it is needed.
I am grateful to Gal Sadot and to Liron, head nurse for their cooperation and acknowledgment of the difficulties and joys of working in the Corona ward. Prof. Amitai Ziv understands the value of Spiritual Care in the hospital at all times, and especially in times of the Corona virus.