Healing the hurt from the inside

A battle with ill-health prompted Jenny Hurley to move into pastoral care, Josh Jennings writes.

A battle with ill-health prompted Jenny Hurley to move into pastoral care, Josh Jennings writes.

'We deal with people when they're very fragile and vulnerable and often very anxious," says pastoral care practitioner Jenny Hurley.

"Sometimes it's the patients and sometimes it's the family." Hurley is a pastoral care practitioner at Cabrini Health. Her main day-to-day responsibilities include allocating tasks to her team, liaising with visiting chaplains and volunteers, operating rosters, participating in the operation of mass, attending medical emergencies, visiting patients and raising awareness of the role pastoral care practitioners play within the hospital.

"There's a lot of diversity and that gives me great stimulation," she says. "Part of what I love the most is working with the other staff."

Spiritual Care Australia describes pastoral care as a typically one-on-one service usually delivered through attentive and reflective listening to a person's experience and story. Hurley says her services are often required when long-term hospital patients experience sudden decline. At this point, families with strong faiths will request a chaplain to bless and anoint the patient.

Hurley's role is to provide spiritual and emotional comfort. It's a delicate process but it's one Hurley's specifically trained for.

"We're all trained professionally. All of us have probably got double degrees. We're trained to do the intuitive listening and we're trained to be very attentive and work out the needs of the person." Hurley was previously a primary school teacher for 23 years. After falling ill however, she permanently lost her hearing and balance on her left side. After spending a year in rehabilitation, she decided to return to university to study clinical pastoral education and then continued on to complete a graduate diploma of theology.

She joined Cabrini four years ago.

"Part of it was related to my illness. I'd been a patient myself and wanted to give something back. I have a strong faith and always have had, but that became more important to me.

"A girlfriend had done clinical pastoral education and just suggested it to me. I think it was the right suggestion at the right time. Maybe divine intervention. Even though there was a bit of loss and grief with me losing one career, in a way I'm kind of glad it happened."

Cabrini's pastoral care service stems from the recognition that ill-health, hospitalisation and other big life changes have the tendency to elicit deep questions, reactions and emotions in people.

The pastoral service team provides a listening presence that enables patients, residents, relatives and staff to process and find expression for these experiences.

Hurley says her plan is to continue to help entrench the pastoral care service in the make-up of health care services Cabrini provides for patients, community and staff.

"I can't explain the satisfaction, joy and passion I have to be able to be there with patients and help them find the meaning of life and their source of strength - and to trust us and share their life experiences at such vulnerable moments."

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