COVID-19 Information 

What's happening in Health Services

Spiritual Health Association recognises that these are challenging and uncertain times. We know that spiritual care makes an essential contribution to compassionate, person-centred care and this aspect of care continues to be important as patients, carers and staff experience ongoing changes.

This page  contains up to date information about COVID-19 especially relevant for spiritual care managers, coordinators and practitioners. This includes information about how spiritual care provision is responding to the shifting needs and restrictions  in health services.

We are gathering resources for use as spiritual care practices change. These are from national and international locations. We hope we can learn through this time and support one another to ensure that safe and high-quality spiritual care continues to be provided throughout our hospitals.

Check our our Guidelines for Quality Spiritual Care in Health.

We are interested to hear of any innovative and creative ways spiritual care is being practiced so please contact us or send through relevant information and resources. 

Spiritual Care provision in health services as at 7 September 2020 

Spiritual care continues to be provided in health services by professional spiritual care practitioners.

The numbers of Covid-19 cases in Victoria are decreasing, and health services continue to be vigilant in responding to current cases. Elective surgery is still suspended in Victoria. Infection control measures are strictly adhered to and the wellbeing of, and support for patients and health service staff is at the fore front for all health services. 

The spiritual sector is undertaking research at an international level to explore the changes and emerging directions brought about by the pandemic.

Reliable and authorised sources of information are below:

The information provided below has been sourced from hospitals in Victoria. It may not be accurate for all hospitals in Australia.

Some Victorian hospitals are dealing with a high number of Covid-19 cases, others with a few or none, depending on their location and the level of care provided. Some Covid-19 patients are being cared for at home by a hospital team.

Victorian health services are also caring for aged-care residents, those infected with Covid-19, as well as some who are Covid-free but have been transferred to a health service.

Face to face spiritual care

Spiritual care staff are working on-site or remotely; some teams are alternating to minimise the risk of infection.

Face-to-face spiritual care is offered in low-risks wards, mostly in regional Victoria, and only if carefully triaged. Some spiritual care staff in Victoria are providing care in high-risk wards. Staff are wearing masks and/or shields and any other PPE, as required, and are ensuring that they are building rapport with patients. Both groups are using Telehealth to support patients and their families as patient isolation is a reality in many health services due to visitor restrictions. 

Many health services are triaging referrals for support within a multidisciplinary framework which includes spiritual care, social work and psychology. Referrals are high. 

Staff are adapting to constant change, being agile in order to respond to the demands in health services. What is ‘normal’ is constantly changing and evolving.

External faith/belief representatives

Spiritual care is being provided through different methods depending on the protocols of the health service, and the level of risk of Covid-19 infection. Major faith groups have updated their guidelines to reflect the Stage 4 restrictions. 

End of Life rituals and sacraments are carried out via Telehealth especially for Covid-19 patients. In low-risk wards and after triage, a patient may receive a face to face visit from a faith representative or spiritual care practitioner. 

South Australian health services are following strict protocols to avoid a second wave of Covid-19 cases. 

Volunteers

Volunteers have not been back on-site in Victoria for several months. In states where it is safe, health services are planning for their return. Opportunities for volunteers to contribute via Telehealth or telephone options are being explored at some locations.

Staff support

This matter continues to be a high priority. A spiritual care presence and support continues to be provided to all staff, clinical and non-clinical, including those dealing with families, such as security guards and ward clerks. 

Many staff are exhausted and expressing moral distress, especially when dealing with End of Life issues where families cannot be present.

Examples of support include:

  • discussing moral and ethical issues
  • setting up “Wellbeing Hubs” for staff education sessions on compassion fatigue and self-care
  • developing protocols for staff and families for compassionate end-of-life care
  • memory candles
  • online meditation groups
  • podcasts for coping/calming,
  • Spiritual Health's vigil: Space. Stillness. Silence. on 8 September, and
  • debriefing opportunities, especially for ICU and ED staff.  

Spiritual care staff continue to work with all staff during these complex times, including in states where restrictions are lifting and no second surge has occurred. 

Sacred Spaces

The 1.5-metre social distancing guidelines and infection control measures are being adhered to in any Sacred Spaces that remain open. The number of chairs, and people visiting the Sacred Space, has been reduced. Many Sacred Spaces remain closed due to infection control issues.

The Victorian Coronavirus hotline is 1800 675 398 (24 hours).

Resources for providing Spiritual Care

Calm

Check out Calm’s free resource page with meditations, stories, music, talks and more to support your mental and emotional wellness.

Ethics

Listen to a one-hour webinar Pandemic Ethics: What Healthcare Chaplains need to know conducted by the Chaplaincy Innovation Lab and Transforming Chaplaincy.

COVID-19 and experiences of moral injury in front-line key workers in Occupational Medicine. Read the editorial.

Australian

Spiritual Health Association 

The Telehealth Guidelines for Spiritual Care were developed in response to changing practices in health care that emerged in the context of COVID-19. These changes offered increased opportunities to provide care through online platforms.

Faith and Belief resources

A number of faith and belief resources are listed on our Multi-faith page.

Rite of Anointing - single use pack - Bendigo Health 

This “End of Life” pack for the Catholic Rite of Anointing was created by a priest in Bendigo, Victoria, Australia. The single-use stole is made of paper and the cotton wool is already soaked in consecrated oil. The kit can be disposed of in the room once the sacrament of anointing is complete: an innovative response during the time of the Covid-19 pandemic. 

End of Life Essentials - Facilitating goodbyes or critical conversations via personal electronic devices

Laptops, tablets, smart phones or personal electronic devices are being used to replace face to face contact when the risks of cross infection are high or when family and friends are far away. These calls or contact via personal electronic devices at critical times of life, such as when a patient is seriously ill or at the end of life require a planned approach for safe compassionate care. Read the practical advice.

Australian Centre for Grief and Bereavement (ACGB) factsheets 

Resources for practitioners to educate the public on how bereavement and grief may be affected by this pandemic.

Southern Adelaide Local Health Network ( SALHN)

Steve Mills, Spiritual Care Coordinator at SALHN shares their idea of "Word bombing" the hospitals to “infect” the hospital with positivity.

"We are making new signs each day (we commenced this week) and cutting them in a circle to represent the shape of the COVID-19 virus, but our circle is green not red. They are 12 cm round. The idea is to keep the green dot uniformed.....but the message inside different. We are assuming that the person who reads it has a certain degree of anxiousness and uncertainty  about the virus  (and/or other things) and therefore we want to offer a word or symbol that:

  • brings a smiles
  • a hopeful thought
  • the reminder that while we are socially distancing ourselves we can still be communities of love, kindness, compassion.

We are placing these in different places around the hospital and then putting the next message nearby to give the effect of the messages spreading. Simple words, or messages - we have plenty of other ‘words’ and people can suggest their own."

Download the Word bombs.

Mental Health self-isolation tips for patients

Adult Mental Health Rehabilitation and self-isolation guide created by a Mental Health Spiritual Care practitioner. 

A guide about guarding mental health during the COVID-19 pandemic.

International

Chaplaincy Innovation Lab

Healthcare Chaplaincy Network: 

Spiritual Care Association: 

Prof. Simon Peng-Keller (University of Zurich)

Association of Professional Chaplains

National Association of Catholic Chaplains (NACC)

Oates Institute

VitalTalk

Inter Faith Network for the United Kingdom 

Princess Alice Hospice