Last month Brisbane’s Wesley Hospital launched a program that will enable all UnitingCare Health hospital staff to pray for patients, no matter their job. Ashley Goetze reports.
Dubbed the Praying Hands initiative, staff identified by a green and yellow Praying Hands badge can now answer prayer requests from patients as they go about their daily tasks.
“We’re the first hospital in the world that we know of to do this,” says the Wesley Hospital Pastoral Care Manager, Rev Murray Fysh.
“We wanted to send a message that prayer and the involvement in faith and how that might relate to a person’s health is everyone’s concern.”
Aware of the strict professional limitations surrounding praying for patients, three years ago Murray and his team set out to find a way staff could pray for patients within these restrictions.
“If a person asks you it’s fine, but you don’t offer,” says Murray, “so here’s an opportunity for some of our staff to interact on that spiritual level with patients.”
Multi-denominational and multi-faith, the Praying Hands initiative is founded on the belief that engagement in spirituality has a positive effect on a patient’s recovery.
“In a congregation I’d get a faith conversation about two or three times a year; here I get two or three a day. It’s radically different,” says Murray.
Rolled out across the Wesley, St Andrew’s War Memorial Hospital and the Sunshine Coast Private Hospital, the Praying Hands initiative has so far enabled 45 newly trained hospital staff to bring their passion for prayer into their sometimes grim work environment.
“We don’t want prayer to just be part of the Holy Roller Empire: the pastoral care team; it needs to be everyone and not just chaplains,” says Murray.
These extra hands are invaluable to the Wesley Hospital’s 38 chaplains who are spread thin trying to cover the 522 registered beds and an ever-growing list of staff referrals.
“We’re just going real slowly,” says Murray, “It took us three years to get it together and there’s no race to the end.”