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Schooled in spiritual care

Course aims to help carers find way to better understand, and connect with, their patients

As everyone went about setting up tables and chairs for the arts and crafts session, Mr Mohd Razali Abdul Latiff circled the small room, stopping occasionally to smile and wave.

Friendly but restless, the 26-year-old continued pacing until Sister Marie de Roza stepped in front of him, gestured, and led him gently to a table to start their paper sampan-making session.

It looked like a simple exchange between Mr Mohd Razali and Sister Marie. But it is rapport that had taken the 71-year-old nun time to build, as Mr Mohd Razali is intellectually disabled and does not speak.

Five times a week, he attends the day activity centre at the Bishan Home for the Intellectually Disabled which Sister Marie visited as part of her course work.

Sister Marie, who works at St Joseph's Home, is one of 11 people who have just finished the Certificate in Spiritual Care in the Helping Profession.

She was drawn to the course because she felt it could help her learn to better reach out to patients at the nursing home. She wanted to go beyond caring for their physical needs.

VOYAGE OF DISCOVERY

I learnt about death and self-care. I also learnt that spirituality and caring for the aged or disabled are not just about providing them with their daily needs, but more importantly, the journey that I take and walk with them which will make a great difference in their lives.

MR SUHARDI TEJAN, who participated in the spiritual care course, Certificate in Spiritual Care in the Helping Profession 

LOOKING AFTER INNER WELL-BEING

Spiritual well-being is about your inner self. We need to understand the individual as a living document, and do a stock check of what is going on within the person.

MR RAJA CHOWDHURY, deputy director of business development and marketing at the Social Service Institute

Organised by the Social Service Institute (SSI), the human capital development arm of the National Council of Social Service, the four-month course is the first of its kind offered in Singapore.

It is aimed at those working in the healthcare or social services sector, with at least three years' experience in their respective fields. The programme teaches participants to develop a care system based on a deeper understanding and connection with their patients.

Mr Raja Chowdhury, deputy director of business development and marketing at SSI, said: "Spiritual well-being is about your inner self. We need to understand the individual as a living document, and do a stock check of what is going on within the person."

Besides classroom learning, each participant had practical training at one or two of seven healthcare organisations that were involved in the programme.

They included Arc Children's Centre, Bishan Home for the Intellectually Disabled and Villa Francis Home for the Aged.

Dubbed spiritual or compassionate carers, students went to these placement sites to apply their knowledge, working with patients who were identified by staff as needing extra attention.

Sister Marie said: "I realised that it helped me to become a better person, more sensitive, understanding."

Another course participant, Mr Suhardi Tejan, said: "I learnt about death and self-care. I also learnt that spirituality and caring for the aged or disabled are not just about providing them with their daily needs, but more importantly, the journey that I take with them which will make a great difference in their lives."

Sister Marie de Roza sharing a laugh with Mr Mohd Razali Abdul Latiff during an arts and craft session at the day activity centre of Bishan Home for the Intellectually Disabled.
Sister Marie de Roza sharing a laugh with Mr Mohd Razali Abdul Latiff during an arts and craft session at the day activity centre of Bishan Home for the Intellectually Disabled. Mr Razali does not speak, and uses hand gestures to communicate. Although the affable man is often restless, Sister Marie is able to help him calm down, sit and focus on the activity at hand because of the good rapport she has built up with him. ST PHOTO: JOYCE FANG

Ms Irene Chew helping seven-year-old Nur Zahra Nadiah Azhari and Saaman Amin Nashat, 11, with their homework at Arc Children's Centre in Kim Keat Road. Both children suffer from leukaemia.
Ms Irene Chew helping seven-year-old Nur Zahra Nadiah Azhari and Saaman Amin Nashat, 11, with their homework at Arc Children's Centre in Kim Keat Road. Both children suffer from leukaemia. Zahra has been going to Arc since she was three years old, while Saaman started last year. ST PHOTO: JOYCE FANG

The four phrases on the whiteboard were part of a self-reflection session on the last day of class.
The four phrases on the whiteboard were part of a self-reflection session on the last day of class. The phrases were widely used during the course, with the exception of the last phrase, which should read I Love You but was adapted to Goodbye on the final day. These phrases were used to guide students to better understand their patients. ST PHOTO: JOYCE FANG


Ms Lee Guek Meng spending time with Mr Brian Goh at the Villa Francis Home for the Aged in Yishun. Mr Goh, 77, has been living in Villa Francis for the past 12 years. Ms Lee is one of 11 people who have just finished the Certificate in Spiritual Care in the Helping Profession course.ST PHOTO: JOYCE FANG

Sister Marie de Roza looks on as her classmates Lee Guek Meng (in blue), 46, and her "buddy" Tan Seng Wah, in her 50s, hug during the self-reflection session on the last day of class.
Sister Marie de Roza looks on as her classmates Lee Guek Meng (in blue), 46, and her "buddy" Tan Seng Wah, in her 50s, hug during the self-reflection session on the last day of class. When the students were going through their training stints at the various healthcare organisations, they were paired with one another to help them on their journey. ST PHOTO: JOYCE FANG

 JOYCE FANG
Mr Suhardi Tejan, 47, lighting a candle for his buddy on the last day of class. The course's key lecturer Geraldine Goh says the ritual may sometimes be used as a symbol to help people connect. Looking on are Mr Suhardi's classmates (from left) Tan Bee Ker, 60, Irene Chew, 68, and Margaret Ho, 40s. ST PHOTO: JOYCE FANG

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 31, 2015, with the headline 'Schooled in spiritual care'. Print Edition | Subscribe