The first non-religious pastoral carer in the NHS on why patients need someone to just be there – to hear their stories or bear witness to their pain, whatever their beliefs
The stress of coming into hospital can take its toll on patients and relatives alike and Jane Flint’s role as a member of the chaplaincy at University Hospitals of Leicester NHS trust is to offer emotional and spiritual support to patients, visitors and staff. The difference between her and the other 12 chaplains is that she is an atheist. Duties are the same as for the other chaplains bar offering prayers, rituals or a religious perspective. “It was wonderful to have you with me. Just knowing that there was someone available who had similar beliefs to mine and that you were coming to see me or I could ask for a visit made such a difference to the rest of my time in hospital,” wrote a former NHS patient.
Like them, Flint will see non-religious and religious people alike who request her services. The role, says Flint, is about “just being there”, whether to hear people’s life stories, to provide a sounding board, or to bear witness to somebody’s pain. It can be about conducting a service for a miscarried child, or for a person who was all alone in life; it can be to provide company, or to give someone time.