Spiritual care volunteering, Western Isles

Spiritual care volunteering, Western Isles

Spiritual Care volunteers are skilled and trained in listening and responding to the needs of patients in acute care in NHS hospitals across Scotland. They offer support to people of all faiths and those of no faith.

Morag Duncan has been living in Stornoway for 28 years, a native of Benbecula, and is a Spiritual Care volunteer at the Western Isles Hospital. Morag lives with her husband and daughter and explained, "I love the island way of life. It is just wonderful." She went on to say, "I love being around people and I’m involved with many organisations in a volunteering capacity."

Morag told me that she has been engaged in volunteering activities, in all types of settings, since she was a young woman. She has been a befriender for most of her adult life and said that the feeling of being able to help someone is unlike any other.

Morag volunteers in a specific and very important role within the hospital, and has been part of the volunteering team for 5 years. She supports patients every Sunday to attend the hospital chapel Sunday service.

Morag Spiritual Care
Person Holding Red Candle In A Dark Room

Morag liaises with Helen Gallacher, the Hospital Chaplain, to find out which patients within the hospital would like to attend the chapel service each Sunday. She also organises any wheelchairs that may be needed to transport the patients from each ward to the chapel.

The strong relationship she has with staff is very important to meeting patients' needs.  She explained, "The needs of the patients vary from requiring medical equipment to go with them to the service, down to needing blankets to retain a comfortable temperature or needing glasses to read the service hymns." It takes a fair bit of coordinating but the benefits for the patients are very visible for all involved in their care.

Morag told me, "Many inpatients I engage with have been unable to share public worship with other people for a long period of time, sometimes years, due to loneliness and isolation. The joy it brings them to be a part of this worship is very heartening."

I asked Morag about the staff-volunteer relationship within the hospital, and she told me that the volunteer team at the hospital are fantastic. She explained that they give great encouragement to every volunteer, and she also told me the clinical staff very much appreciate and support the added value the volunteers bring to the hospital as a whole.

Finally, I asked Morag what impact her volunteering has had on her personally. She told me, "Helping others has always been part of my life and I often feel I can intuitively see the need in others. I often feel like I make people's days a little better and that I actually get more from it than the patients do."

Through the development of case studies we have learned that one of the underlying reasons for volunteering for many people across NHS Scotland is simply to be kind to others. An often complex world seems brighter when you learn of roles like Morag's. In her words: "As long as I always treat people how I would like to be treated, I know I am on the right path."

Morag was interviewed by Lisa Taylor from the Volunteering in NHS Scotland Programme at Healthcare Improvement Scotland.

Last Updated: 23 April 2021