Caring for the caretaker

Pastoral Care Week was observed recently at St. Joseph’s Hospital in Comox.

Ted Hicks


Who will take care of the caretaker?

The question implies that those who give also need to receive, to ‘refill their tanks’ to reduce the risk of burnout and to continue to sustain their energy and compassion in service to the people in their care.

St. Joseph’s Hospital in Comox answers that question in very practical ways, going out of its way to support and encourage the community of physicians, staff, and volunteers who, day in and day out, give of their skills and from their hearts in caring for patients and families in times of anxiety and distress.

The hospital’s commitment to replenishing the energies of its many caregivers is especially evident during Pastoral Care Week, observed recently at St. Joseph’s.

The Pastoral Care Department, through Chaplains Steve Hill and Brian Ducedre, organized a number of activities that increased awareness of pastoral care services in the hospital, particularly by saying thank you to its physicians, staff, and volunteers.

Daily over lunch, the Sisters’ Café was transformed into a venue for local musicians to volunteer their talents in playing and singing, while various community sponsors provided tasty treats to enjoy in addition to the café’s usual menu.

Delightful Halloween table decorations were made by grade 5-6 students from Aspen Elementary and Youth Volunteers with Brenda Phillips, Director of The Views’ Lifestyle program.

A giant, scary pumpkin was masterfully carved by Mike Thorlakson. The sound setup and food delivery was expertly organized respectively by Colin Graham and John Zuk.

Pastoral Care Week featured fabulous performances from a diverse group of talented artists including: Tammy Fassaert, the Anderson Jazz Syndicate, Nicole Burgess and The Views’ Chime Bell Choir, Lynn Hodge and Time for Uke, Tracy Canil, Blaine Waldbauer, Eric MacDonald, Bill Bussey, and Dick Stuart.

After Helen Austin sang her hit song that won the 2012 John Lennon Songwriting Contest, Michelle Cooke, an appreciative patient, cheered, “You are better than a pill!”

Popular food treats were provided by generous community sponsors including Tim Horton’s coffee and donuts, pumpkin tarts from Quality Foods/Courtenay, deluxe yogurt from Island Farms, and, carrot cake and fresh baked cookies from Comox Valley Funeral Home.

“The food was great. The music was awesome. We all really appreciate these pastoral care events” said, Denise, a lab transcriptionist. “I told my new trainee she was starting off on a great week!”

Kelly, from Diagnostic Imaging, added, “These appreciation events bring everyone together for great entertainment and wonderful treats. We really appreciate being appreciated by our caring and wonderful pastoral care team and by all the community support.”

Further donations from The Best Western Plus Westerly Hotel, Fifth Street Florist and Comox Valley Funeral Home, allowed the Pastoral Care Department to invite 40 local Christian clergy and their spouses to enjoy a delicious and inspirational breakfast at the Westerly.

Hill thanked the clergy for augmenting the services the Pastoral Care Department offers by supporting people from their churches and the 19 Wing in times of illness, surgery, treatment, and bereavement. Hill also highlighted the contribution of community clergy who volunteer their time to carry the emergency on-call pager. Hill also thanked Ducedre, for the exceptional care and service he gives at St. Joe’s.

During the breakfast, local physician and Anglican pastor of a small Christian community at Berwick, Dr. David Bowler, told the story of a recent trip with his wife, Dr. Jannice Bowler, to a retreat centre in Wales where people who tend their spirit are able in simple, down-to-earth ways to draw alongside others who are searching or suffering, to offer timely and meaningful comfort and encouragement.

Bowler’s story was a gentle nudge to all caregivers to continue to tend their own spirit as part of the commitment to serve others.

The stressful work and excellent patient care will continue by physicians, staff, and volunteers in the hospital and by the clergy in their churches and at 19 Wing.

Because the Pastoral Care Department at St. Joseph’s Hospital took time to say thank you and to offer gifts for the spirit, each will have a second wind and be better equipped to offer care with compassion, which is the mission of the hospital.

Ted Hicks is a retired Presbyterian minister and pastoral volunteer at St Joe’s.

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