Being admitted and staying in hospital can be one of the most difficult times in an individual’s life.   There are interventions and possibly operations taking place that you don’t necessarily completely understand, but you know must happen to make you well again, which means you are at your most vulnerable state, giving over your body or mind to others with different knowledge to you to make you well again.

As a medically retired nurse, now as a therapist and a patient I understand this vulnerability, and also understand how important our beliefs can be in supporting us at these difficult times.

The World Health Organisation (WHO), the Pope himself and many other religious orders and bodies have come to recognise and publish the importance of having our religious or spiritual beliefs acknowledged and supported whilst unwell.  How it can help with recovery as much as having a clean and safe environment.  

As Pagans this spiritual support may often not be available within hospitals, as it is still a mostly Christian dominated department and we are often sadly still misunderstood.

Presently there are very few hospitals throughout England and Wales who have Pagan Volunteers within their spiritual care or Chaplaincy departments and possibly only one full time paid pagan priestess working within this role.

The reason I got involved in the PF Hospital Ministry was because I am passionate about this and wish to help work towards this change.  Within Healthcare there is the Network for Pastoral, Spiritual and Religious care in Health which was formed some time ago, but still Pagans are not represented at present.   I would like to see this change and am working to have Pagans represented within this body hopefully within the year.

My aim is that one day every hospital will have access to a Pagan able to offer spiritual care to their patients.  That the patients will be free to honour their chosen Gods or Goddesses not only in health but in times of sickness, and in death, as for many it is very important to have the transition recognised.  For families to feel supported, whether they follow the same path or not, to have someone to help them understand what their loved ones wishes mean whilst they are unwell or dying. 

But this is only part of it……

To get to this place of having Pagans available, and supporting patients, we need volunteers, but also we must educate hospital spiritual care and medical staff who often misunderstand who and what we are and do, through no fault of their own, but through media misrepresentation and lack of correct education.

So, through re-education and renewed understanding I wish for Pagans to feel comfortable to request and receive spiritual care alongside receiving medical care, free from prejudice and misconception.  Free to practice their beliefs or learn more about their chosen path whether in general medical or mental health hospitals. Within mental health this can at times potentially be more challenging due to the nature of some mental illness. Science of the mind has taken over the understanding of some spiritual experiences, and so great care is required in order to support these patients.   But the PF and I feel up for the challenge to support all as equals in their beliefs.

This is no small task to cover all hospitals: these will include general medical – the mixed hospitals, women’s, men’s and children’s; there are maternity and mental health hospitals, there are a huge number to consider.  Beyond that there are also hospices, care and nursing homes; one day in the future it would be fabulous to know these are supporting the spiritual needs of Pagans as well.

Diane Yates – Hospital Ministry Manager

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