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Some Reflections from the Nightingale Hospital London

Posted Tuesday 19 May 2020


Dr David Whittington, his wife Jill Whittington, and Joyce Hill are all members of Eastgate, and second year students at Eastgate School of Spiritual Life.

David normally works at The Royal London Hospital as a GP consultant in A&E and on the PRU (Physician Response Unit) which complements HEMS (Helicopter Emergency Medical Service) in a wide range of pre-hospital medicine and trauma. He has recently been serving on the compassionate care and family support teams at the newly established NHS Nightingale Hospital London.

Jill is a volunteer Hospital Chaplain, normally based at The Royal London Hospital Emergency Department. She joined the Chaplaincy Team at The Nightingale.

Joyce is normally an interpreter for the Home Office, and creator of Joyce in Wonderland on YouTube. Her stint at The Nightingale was her first experience of Chaplaincy work.

Having only just said goodbye to The Nightingale last week, they have all taken the time to write about their unique experiences there, giving us an interesting insight into the vital work they have been involved in during the crisis:

David writes…

“Something happened within the NHS when the need to protect the healthy, brutally isolated the sick from their loved ones’ words, touch and presence. A new challenge to fill a void created by necessity drew something wonderful out of the hearts and minds of volunteers and clinicians to craft compassionate care to a level that would nourish the heart, mind and soul of all involved.

What started as a desire to comfort the relative with daily updates from a team using the live clinical records, quickly became a dynamic human interface of deep compassion that brought context and connection between the patient, the ITU staff and the relatives.

Ways were found to express deep love and hope from relatives to the patient via the hands-on nursing teams, who were furnished with a steady stream of highly personal messages, pictures, poems and detailed knowledge of the patient. And relatives were given crafted interpretations of complex clinical scenarios about their loved ones.

And we who carried these messages to and fro, who cried and laughed with these stranded people, will never be the same again. And neither will pandemic ITU care.”

Jill writes….

The role of the Chaplaincy was mainly to provide support to patients and relatives for end of life care. As it happened, I also had the God-given opportunity to provide spiritual support to the staff at the Nightingale. I gathered a team of like-minded Christians who wanted to be on hand to be that spiritual support under the Chaplaincy service.

During my time at The Nightingale, I chatted to a lot of staff, many of whom were open to me praying a blessing for them before they returned to their shift. A couple of nurses said that those prayers were the highlight of their time at the hospital, and others said they were very touched.

I was able to give words or pictures to some of the staff, and on one occasion helped someone to interpret a dream and, on learning of a fledgling belief and desire to read the Bible, encouraged him to pursue God further.

We prayed for healing on several occasions – for bad backs, migraines, distress, infertility. We prayed for provision for security guards, cleaners, technicians, doctors and clinicians.

We chatted to one member of the Security team and discovered that not only was it his birthday, but his mother had died the previous day. So, we bought him a birthday cake and a card, celebrated him, and prayed for him.

One clinical support worker, normally an OT, was extremely distressed and found herself very emotional whilst caring for a patient. She was a Christian, who had been through a difficult year, and was feeling like a failure – seeing patients she had cared for deteriorating and dying around her. She was wondering whether to continue with her shifts. We prayed for her on two occasions, and gave her an encouraging picture from God, which resonated with her. She later thanked us, telling us that the experience had left her feeling more hopeful in God, and reassured that He has a plan for her life.

Jill writes….

Although The Nightingale is now in hibernation, the experience I had there still amazes me. It was a partnership with Jesus. It was my privilege to be part of NHS history as one of the Chaplaincy team mainly working with hospital staff.

Those people left their families and friends, and committed themselves to working long hours. They stayed in a hotel nearby, isolated from seeing anyone except hospital colleagues. Some of them were coping fine, whilst the loneliness, the workload and the shift work were overwhelming for others. So, the wellbeing and compassionate care team was there to listen, to talk, and to pray for them. To tell them that it’s OK to be vulnerable. Jesus sat in the Wellbeing Hub with us and came with us when we were on the move to say hello to people.

I met a cleaner during his break time. He didn’t have a father figure in his life, and due to his sexuality, he didn’t feel accepted. Within minutes of chatting to him, the Holy Spirit was in our conversation. I gave him a word of knowledge. He was really attentive to this word, and could not believe what was given to him. He put down the food he was eating and showed me his goose bumps! I also shared my own personal testimony. He was very open, and said that he is going to talk to our Heavenly Father again (who he was close to 10 years ago). That day was a new day for him. He knows he has a new image as a beloved son, rather than an orphan and that he can talk to our Father anytime. When I saw him again two days later, he told me excitedly that he had called his mum in Brazil and told her that he is a new man now. He wants to visit my church too. Isn’t it wonderful? Whatever negative words were spoken over him in the past have been discarded just like the PPE he dumped into the waste bin before coming out of the ward. He has dreams and choices to make ahead of him. He now understands that our Daddy is his helper, his advisor and an intimate friend who is so willing to be in his life.

This is just one of many testimonies. God shows up wherever, whenever to whoever. Florence Nightingale, The Lady with the Lamp, brought hope and healing in the darkest hour. As a Christians, we are the light of the world. We are the light in the tunnel and at the end of the tunnel to bring hope, peace, love, joy and healing to those in need.

We are so thankful for David, Jill, and Joyce, for the valuable and compassionate work they have been doing. What a beautiful demonstration of God’s love amidst the horror and sadness of what’s happening. And what a model of that special combination of medicine and faith that we call Heaven in Healthcare.