As the days grow shorter and colder, it is hard to miss that we are in the midst of Autumn. Walks along paths strewn with fallen leaves are a daily invitation to contemplate the wisdom of this season. What am I hanging on to that is no longer needed or beneficial? What do I need to let go of, to shed, so that space is made for something new to emerge?
While the encouragement to reflect can be personal, it can also happen at a more corporate level. This is what I am finding as I begin the process of meeting with our health service members to discuss strategic directions and the challenges spiritual care services face in their hospitals. There is a strong commitment to provide a professional service and yet the lack of investment in staffing and resources means there is a reliance on models of care that do not support the professional recognition that is sought. One Director of Allied Health commented that spiritual care is not valued and not seen as integral by those making the funding decisions, and it is seen in mixed ways by other health professionals. In some places there continues to be confusion about the relationship between religious care and spiritual care, and the nature of what is being offered by the spiritual care service. This is only reinforced by the lack of clarity in terminology.
There are some hard questions ahead for the spiritual care sector as we contemplate our future in health care. What are we hanging on to that is no longer needed or beneficial? What do we need to let go of? If we cannot face these questions honestly, we may find ourselves being shed to make room for services that are clear about what they do, who they are and the contribution they make.
Working with our members and others in the months ahead will be an opportunity for reflection. We want to create a space for something new to emerge, enabling strong investment in a model of spiritual care that is valued and seen as integral to person-centred health care.