Monday 10th September 2012
Kenneth Day and Lizzie Foster, Macmillan clinical nurse specialists, explored their spirituality through a two-year training programme – here they describe the impact it has had on their care.
Within palliative care, spirituality and spiritual care is very much in focus. Both national and local initiatives are asking professionals to pay attention to this dimension of care.
We chose to explore spirituality and spiritual care through a two-year training programme at the Interfaith Seminary. The seminary trains people from all walks of life, serves people of all faiths and none, celebrating and embracing all traditions and human experience.
Our reasons for studying with the seminary were slightly different, but in essence, we wanted to be more effective in our roles; to recognise the potential there is in human relationships when we allow ourselves to be fully attentive and open; and to not shy away from difficult situations where we feel empty-handed, despite all our clinical skills.
‘We feel better able to take part in the difficult and distressing conversations and situations that take place in cancer and palliative care’
The training is part-time, and while there are clear academic requirements in the curriculum, much of the training is experiential. The first year focuses on studying the world’s religions and mystic traditions and developing personal spiritual practice and self-enquiry.
The second year builds on this, but also includes creating and conducting ceremony and ritual to honour significant life events. A further strand is spiritual counselling. At its conclusion, each successful student is ordained and given the title of Interfaith Minister.
The training’s impact
The impact of taking this course and becoming interfaith ministers has been significant for each of us. This is both in terms of our professional work and our personal development, which are interwoven.
In our daily work we are much more aware of the spiritual dimension and how to honour and address that. We feel better able to take part in the difficult and distressing conversations and situations that take place in cancer and palliative care.
We have become increasingly aware of our own spirituality, too. We feel more settled and at home in the world, distilling our own life values, with an enhanced awareness of what it really means to be of service and to help others.
We also recognise that we have the ability and the settings in which to help raise awareness of spiritual care with other colleagues, in either formal or informal education. Neither our, nor the seminary’s aim, is to take the place of existing spiritual provision, but to enrich and support it.
As with many other healthcare skills, a lot of the principles of spiritual care can be learned and there is an increasing number of agencies able to help professionals with this. Our advice to anyone wanting to improve their spiritual care is to take care of them self first and to start to be aware of what spirituality means to them.
Email Kenneth Day, Macmillan Uro-Oncology CNS at Ealing Hospital NHS Trust.
Email Lizzie Foster, Macmillan Palliative Care CNS Macmillan Palliative Care Team for NE Lincs Care Trust Plus.
Online information - the Interfaith Foundation.