Spiritual Care Team
Spiritual Care team wraps patients, families and colleagues in support
By Anne Rondepierre-Riczu
The Spiritual Care Services team traditionally provides spiritual support face-to-face, but during the COVID-19 pandemic, members system-wide were called upon for support in numbers and ways they never imagined.
“Once visitor restrictions came into play, it was imperative we support family members who were on the outside and struggling with not being able to see or communicate with their loved ones,” recalled Deacon Tim Bolton of St. Vincent’s Medical Center. “Many of these patients were intubated and not able to speak for themselves. A process was put into place quickly which enabled us to contact next of kin and provide appropriate reverential support.”
In the process, he said poignant relationships were forged with family members. Prayer and sacraments was offered over the phone and family members were invited to St. Vincent’s daily virtual mass.
“We would offer a specific prayer during that mass for anyone on the COVID list,” Bolton said. “We conferred the Sacrament of the Sick during mass from the altar and this meant a great deal to their loved ones.” Doreen Bottone, chaplain at MidState Medical Center, also experienced profound change in her role as COVID-19 set in.
“Never, in my 20 years of experience, had I ever seen anything like it, and I hope to never see it again,” she said. “There were days when I had two pages of deaths. The suffering was palpable and overwhelming. I knew I had to help in any way I could.”
Bottone called family members and helped them through their grief from afar. “They had questions, and often wanted to offer thanks, knowing their loved ones were surrounded by people doing all they could and did not die alone.”
“Once visitor restrictions came into play, it was imperative we support family members who were on the outside and struggling with not being able to see or communicate with their loved ones,” –Deacon Tim Bolton
MidState converted waiting rooms in the ICU and Emergency Department into meditative spaces for staff who could not leave those units.
“I would make rounds and talk to staff,” Bottone recalled. “Managers could call on me when they sensed there was a need, perhaps after an unexpected, devastating loss.
“Beyond the sadness, I witnessed a new sense of respect and teamwork develop amongst colleagues. This experience will stay with every single healthcare worker and impact them forever, professionally and personally.”
MidState Medical Center and The Hospital of Central Connecticut both opened tranquility rooms for staff near the ICU and Emergency Department. The spaces were fitted with soft lighting, relaxing music, water, fruit, yoga mats and comfortable chairs so employees could take breaks while adhering to social distancing. Father Hyginus Agu, left, and Deacon Tim Bolton make the rounds at St. Vincent’s Medical Center on Easter morning, offering readings from the Gospel, blessings and song.
Photos by Danielle Swift