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Spiritual care program supports patients

Alliston – February 15, 2013 – Specially trained volunteers are now providing a new kind of support to patients at Stevenson Memorial Hospital through the Spiritual Care Volunteer Program. The unique program was created in September, 2012 to fill a void when the hospital Chaplain retired.

"It was developed at the request of hospital staff," says Diane Munro, president of the Stevenson Memorial Hospital Auxiliary. "When the hospital Chaplain retired, we wanted to see if we could bring together a group of volunteers to offer spiritual assistance and support for patients."

There are now 11 Auxiliary volunteers who make regularly scheduled visits to patients in need of emotional support. All Spiritual Care volunteers have completed an extensive training program to help them handle the emotional needs of the individuals they visit.  The program provides non-denominational support.

"We do more listening than talking, so confidentiality is very important." explains volunteer Ralph Braden, who, along with his wife Rosalba, is one of the volunteers in the program. "It starts with a friendly visit. I think people need to know that we genuinely do care about them. They talk about everything from their own lives to what happens after they die. Some people find it eases their pain just to talk to us."

For many patients, living without adequate support from family or friends can add unnecessary pain to an already stressful time in hospital. The Spiritual Care volunteers are trained to listen to patients and they can relieve the stress.

"Loneliness can be a heavy burden," Ralph says of why many patients welcome their visits, adding that volunteers are also able to support family members of patients."Sometimes it's not the patients but the caregiver who needs the support," explains Diane. "We are working to expand the program into patients homes after they leave the hospital."

The volunteer team has monthly meetings with the Auxiliary and the Manager of the Med / Surg unit at the hospital to hold de-briefing sessions as a form of continual learning.