Physical distancing during the pandemic has been the biggest change for St Helena’s chaplaincy team, Vickie Peters and Terry Walker.

Vickie describes the challenges to protect patients that COVID-19 has forced in her role as lead chaplain, and the emotional challenges it brings with it…

The big part of chaplaincy is walking the journey with people. Pre-covid we’d often see people in the year before they actually really came to the end of life. Over that year we’d meet several times and go through all the ups and downs of the whole palliative journey with them. The real beauty of that is you’ve got time to build trust with people.

Patients often start out saying ‘I don’t want to talk about death, I don’t want to talk about this’. After a few months they begin to feel comfortable to talk about those things; you can gradually address things as they come up, so by the time someone reaches end of life, they can die quite peacefully.

Now, when we’re not able to do that, people may be coming to the end of life who haven’t dealt with those things in the run up, and that can cause more issues for them at the end of life.

Since COVID we’re having a lot less face to face contact with patients because we need to protect them due to their physical vulnerability.

With patients in the community, wherever possible, we’re now talking to them by telephone and we hope to start talking to them by video link soon. We do go out for some home visits if there’s a need that can’t be met over the telephone, but it is very much when somebody is towards the end of their life or there is an emergency situation. That tends to be if we’re attending somebody for last prayers, or if they’ve got something going on that’s really distressing them and they actually just need that face to face conversation, someone to look them in the eye while they say something confidential.

We’re working with the chaplain at St Elizabeth Hospice and we take it in turns to produce a short 10 minute Sunday service for the patients on the ward and in the community, and it also goes out to our staff and volunteers. People who are missing being able to get to church can have that little ten minutes out of their day to have the church come to them.

We are still seeing patients on the inpatient unit but it’s a bit tricky, like it is for everyone working at The Hospice through masks and gloves and aprons. With the PPE on, we look like we’re nursing staff, so we need to help the patient to understand what our role is when it’s not so obvious.

I wear glasses and they often get steamed up, so trying to keep eye contact with people can be difficult. They can’t see your facial expressions through the mask either so it is a barrier. Some of the patients struggle to hear if they’ve got hearing difficulties and they can’t read your lips. It’s a challenge, but one we’re getting used to.

But you don’t quite get that same connection with people. To me, chaplaincy is about being present with people, it's about being able to hold their hand and look in their eye and to just be with them in what they're going through.

We often talk about some quite difficult subjects with people; trying to do that when you can’t see them and they can’t see you can be a barrier.

Chaplaincy has an important role because although we all know we’re going to die, it’s very different from knowing it’s starting to happen to your body. And when that starts to happen it does make us more aware of our souls.

Things that may have gone on through our whole life that we can shut to one side and ignore, tend to come up when we’ve got more time on our hands to think about it. Often people start looking back over their life story and that brings up, perhaps, regrets that they’ve had, or they start to assess how they’ve lived and changes they want to make.

It does bring up a whole load of stuff that people often ignore in day to day life, and to have somebody to actually listen to those experiences and have the skills to help work through what’s going on inside of them through that time, is invaluable to a lot of people.

My role here is to help people find peace in the journey and before they die, and I think that's probably more relevant now than ever; just helping people deal with anything they've got going on that is getting in the way of them finding peace.

Contact Information
Fundraising

To contact the St Helena Fundraising team, please telephone 01206 931 468 or email fundraising@sthelena.org.uk , Monday to Friday between 9.00am and 5.00pm.

Retail

To contact the St Helena Retail team, for enquiries about our shops, donation centre and house clearance service please telephone 01206 890 165.

SinglePoint

24 hour advice: SinglePoint 01206 890 360

SinglePoint is a 24/7 advice and support helpline which helps to coordinate an individual’s care with the hospice. SinglePoint also works alongside other healthcare services such as GPs, Community Nurses or Specialists.

The Hospice

To contact a patient at The Hospice please find the address and telephone number below. Phone calls can be made to patients at any time of the day or week. You can contact Inpatient Services 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

The Hospice, Myland Hall, Barncroft Close, Highwoods, Colchester, C04 9JU

Telephone: 01206 845 566

Hospice in the Home

You can contact The Hospice in the Home Team Monday to Friday, between 9.00am and 5.00pm on:

Colchester/Halstead team
Telephone: 01206 845 566

Tendring community team
Telephone: 01255 221 222

Day Therapies

You can contact the Joan Tomkins Centre (Colchester) Monday to Friday between 9.00am and 5.00pm on:

Telephone: 01206 848 163

Fax: 01206 752 245

You can contact the St Helena Tendring Centre (Clacton) Monday to Friday, between 9.00am and 5.00pm on 01255 221 222

Tendring Centre Postcode for Sat Navs: CO15 1EU

Human Resources

The HR Team can be contacted Monday to Friday between 9.00am and 5.00pm on 01206 931 466

Finance Team

To contact the St Helena Finance Team please telephone 01206 931 450 Monday to Friday, 9.00am to 5.00pm

Volunteer Services Team

The Volunteer Services team can be contacted Monday to Friday between 9.00am and 5.00pm on 01206 931 466

Media Enquiries

For all media enquiries between 9.00am and 5.00pm, Monday to Friday, please phone the Marketing and Communications team directly on 01206 931 464

Patient Referrals

If you, or a member of your family has a life-limiting illness and would like to discuss whether St Helena care services can help, you can contact the SinglePoint telephone service 24 hours a day, 7 days a week on 01206 890 360

Bereavement Support

To contact the St Helena Bereavement Support team please telephone the bereavement helpline: 01206 984 274, Monday to Friday, 9.00am to 5.00pm

Learning and Development Centre

The Learning and Development Centre is open Monday to Friday between 9.00am and 5.00pm and can be contacted on 01206 851 560

Service User Group

For more information on the St Helena Service User Group please contact Chair, Ken Aldred on 01206 751 397

Facilities Hire Enquiries

01206 851560

Lottery

To contact the Lottery team please call 0800 285 1390 or visit the website here, Monday to Friday between 9am and 5pm.

If you would like to write to or visit the Lottery team, the address is: Your Hospice Lottery Office Unit 6 The Atrium, Phoenix Square, Wyncolls Road, Colchester CO4 9AS.

Comment, compliment or complaint

Feedback, comments and complaints about St Helena care and support services may be made verbally or in writing to: Director of Care, St Helena, Myland Hall, Barncroft Close, Highwoods, Colchester, CO4 9JU. To speak to a member of our team, call 01206 845 566