Chaplains offer spiritual care by telephone

Before COVID-19, a typical day would see a chaplain supporting multiple patients or residents, family members and staff. Continuing to provide support to so many different individuals during a pandemic meant the team needed to get creative, so they expanded their spiritual care services to include telephone support.

“It helps people cope in a situation that is very unusual. We are trying to adapt to a new world and a new reality that isn’t going away in the short term, and we are trying to provide a service we know people will benefit from. It’s reaching through the telephone. It’s virtual care,” says Karen Hansen, manager of spiritual care, acute (urban and rural).

Telephone support is offered at several Covenant Health facilities, including hospitals and long-term care. At hospitals, chaplains often call families because a staff member feels the family would benefit from support, while chaplains in long-term care often call families that would normally visit their loved ones regularly.

Families are encouraged to call their local site to speak with a chaplain. If the request is not urgent, they may leave a message, and the chaplain will contact them. The Grey Nuns Community Hospital, Misericordia Community Hospital and Villa Caritas have on-call chaplains who can speak with families if there is an urgent request.

Although the delivery of spiritual care has changed for families, Ralph Magnus, manager of spiritual care, seniors (urban and rural), says the commitment to provide care and support remains unchanged.

“When caring for a resident, we care for the whole person, and that has to include the people that they love. That’s why we reach out to the families,” says Ralph. “It’s one of the ways that we can continue to keep the relationship bridge between our residents and their loved ones healthy.”

Chaplains don’t give any medical information to families, but they often pass along messages to their loved ones and give updates on how they are coping. They also often share stories and talk about things that are meaningful to the family members.

“We want people to feel part of what is happening with their family member. We don’t want them to feel isolated or cut off because COVID cuts them off. We want them to feel part of their loved one’s life as much as possible,” explains Ralph. 

Where to call

Acute care: For non-urgent requests, call the office of your local site and leave a message. For urgent requests at the Grey Nuns hospital, Misericordia hospital or Villa Caritas, call the switchboard to page the on-call chaplain, who will triage the requests. (If in the hospital, dial zero.) The telephone support service is not available for rural acute sites after hours (between 16:15 and 08:00) or on weekends.

Long-term care: Please call the office of your local site and leave a message for the chaplain to return your call.

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