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Tuesday, 12 December 2017
Spotlight on our Chaplaincy team
13 March 2017

Every day, a team of chaplains and chaplaincy volunteers take to the wards at our hospital to comfort patients, reassure families and support staff. We visited the Heath Road site to find out more about their varied role and the small acts of kindness they carry out which make a real difference to people when they are at their most vulnerable.

Chaplaincy colleagues (l to r) Alan Palmer, Kathy Wilson
and Tony Brookes, and Mandy Reynolds (separate photo).
Rev. Mandy Reynolds while serving in Iraq. The Chaplains support colleagues and patients across the hospital, including in ED. Here Rev. Alan Palmer is pictured with technician Adriano Masa.

 

In 2006, Reverend Mandy Reynolds faced nightly mortar attacks while serving as a padre with the British Army during a six-month tour of Iraq.

Fast-forward 11 years and she’s swapped the war zone for the wards in her new role as a Church of England chaplain at Ipswich Hospital. And although the two environments couldn’t be further apart, she thoroughly enjoys the variety they both have brought and says she feels “very lucky” to do a job she loves so much.

Mandy is one of four chaplains based in the team at the hospital. They play a vital role, doing everything from comforting end-of-life patients and their families to arranging baptisms, funerals, weddings and memorial services and supporting staff through challenging times.

“The tour of Iraq was scary, but I feel it was where I did some of my best ministry as the soldiers felt they could talk in confidence and would not be judged,” said Mandy, who started in Ipswich last May and is also a presenter on the hospital radio station. “I was even invited to baptize some soldiers who had come to faith in the desert, which was a real blessing and huge privilege.

“My time with the army proved the old adage is true – there are no atheists on the battlefield. We faced mortar attacks every night and one evening a mortar came through the roof of our digs but miraculously didn’t go off. The soldiers always said it was because they had the ultimate ‘top cover’ – having the padre with them, protecting them

“My role in Ipswich is very different but I enjoy it just as much. No two days are the same and I still get to meet people from all different backgrounds and ages.

“We spend a lot of time just being with people who are frightened and may just have been told the worse news they will ever get. To hold someone’s hand and listen when they are at their most vulnerable is a huge privilege – we are here to walk alongside people when they need us the most.”

A member of the team is on call 24/7, and chaplains are also alerted when an urgent trauma case is brought to the hospital so that they can go the Emergency Department to support the families.

They also hold a range of services in the chapel each week, as well as annual events. This year, they will help celebrate the 100th anniversary of the East Suffolk Nurses League as well as organising events at the hospital as part of Dying Matters Awareness Week in May. Later in the autumn, the team will also hold its annual precious babies service to remember babies who have died.

“While these services and events are part of what we do, we will also go and see any patient, including people from other faith communities and those with no faith at all,” said Reverend Tony Brookes, the hospital’s lead chaplain. “We are not here to promote the work of the church but provide broader spiritual care to those who invite it. I also like to think we convey a level of hope.

“If a patient or family member wishes us to be, we will also be there at the end of their life. Although this can be emotionally demanding, it is also a huge privilege to be invited by someone to share such a difficult time and I would not want any of the team to forget that.

“I find the work incredibly rewarding – people know that we are there to listen, which gives them strength. It is fantastic just to sit with someone for 20 minutes and help them to feel human.”

Chaplaincy in the NHS has historically been a partnership between paid staff and volunteers. Anyone who is interested in learning more about chaplaincy or exploring the possibility of becoming a chaplaincy volunteer can email chaplaincy@ipswichhospital.nhs.uk