“This is doing my head in!” by Harriet Oxley

Harriet 1I wonder how often you’ve heard someone say these words. Every day perhaps? Depending on our circumstances the things that provoke each of us are different. As we become more stressed and pressurized it becomes harder to see the way forward clearly. If we go unsupported and problems start to pile up they can start to bring us down.

Staff listening offers one-to-one support that is confidential and non-judgmental. Each person is supported to talk about issues of concern, deepen his or her understanding and rediscover hope. As a result they are enabled to tap into personal strengths and find a way forward if that’s what they need to do. Staff listening is a service offered by the NHS Dumfries and Galloway’s Spiritual Care team.

I recognise that some people are not sure what spiritual care is or what we do. I notice that some people hear the word ‘spiritual’ and imagine everything from ‘religious nut’ to ‘bible basher’. Others wonder why we need spiritual care in the NHS nowadays.

I wonder if it would help to make the distinction between religious and spiritual care. Religious care is given in the context of the shared beliefs, values and rituals of faith communities. Spiritual care, on the other hand, makes no assumption about personal beliefs or lifestyle. In other words, spiritual care is not necessarily religious and many people with no religious beliefs recognise their own need for spiritual care.

Spiritual care recognises that everyone needs to have meaning and purpose in their lives and fostering this promotes resilience and wellbeing. Spiritual care enables people, whether they’re patients, carers, volunteers or staff, to cope with life transitions, such as illness, loss or bereavement, as well as ethical dilemmas and major life decisions.

The Spiritual Care team consists of self-aware and sensitive listeners who have time to be with each individual in their need. Staff listening promotes spiritual wellbeing by offering a safe space for people to explore their concerns and draw strength from their own inner resources and those of supportive people around them. It is available to any member of staff, volunteer or carer within Dumfries and Galloway Health and Social Care. Equality and diversity is important to us and we welcome everyone irrespective of personal beliefs or life circumstances.

Harriet 2So perhaps you’re wondering what happens in staff listening. Firstly I’d like to point out that our role is not to fix problems or give advice. Instead we listen as each person tells his or her story, ask the right questions and offer support and encouragement. For many people telling their story is all they need to do. To have someone listen to the issues they are struggling with is enough to leave them feeling heard and able to carry on.

Sometimes, in talking about the situation, the person hears themselves say what they need to hear and gains insight just from having put their story into words. At other times the person’s story may be very complex, with many different strands. In such situations our role is to help them disentangle some of these strands, to look at them in turn and perhaps identify what some of their options are.

‘I have just realised what I need to do – I have never thought about that before.’

‘I have just heard the answer to my problem in what I have said.’

‘Saying that made me hear and see my own story differently.’

Space to reflect and talk through issues with colleagues has become rare, yet it is often the very thing that makes a difference in how we cope. If something is troubling you or you’re struggling with a particularly difficult situation, maybe it would help to talk in confidence with someone outside your situation. If so, please drop us an email to: dg.stafflistening@nhs.net

Harriet Oxley

Spiritual Care team