“You don’t look like a typical Vicar”

Posted on Fri, 25/10/2019 by Joan Robinson

Joan Robinson talks about her role as a hospital chaplain and the unique view it gives her on hospital life and the whole community in Gateshead.

“You don’t look like a typical Vicar” or “You look like her from Emmerdale” are the two more unusual ways that people often start conversations with me.

I’ve never seen Emmerdale so I can’t comment too much on that one, but it’s always such a joy to talk to all sorts of different people that I meet every day.

I feel very privileged that patients, families, carers and staff invite me into their lives when they are often at their most vulnerable.  They trust me to walk alongside them at difficult moments and know that I care.

I work with some amazing people and I’ve built up some fantastic relationships with NHS staff during my three years here, having started on 31st October 2016 (yes Halloween!)

I was brought up on the council estate next to the Queen Elizabeth Hospital at a time when few people had a car or telephone, so when accidents happened or someone was ill, everyone went to the QE as it was so close at hand.  I never imagined that one day I would be able to serve the community and people where I grew up.

As part of a small Chaplaincy team, we’re here to be alongside people (with or without faith) offering pastoral, religious or spiritual care.   We also work alongside other faith communities and can give help and advice to staff if they need it.

For many people faith is so important and I can share their religious belief and their practise because we’re available 24/7 for people who may need us.

At the hospital we have a huge variety of wards from maternity to palliative care and I’m called to be with people in so many different situations. It can be bereavement, terminal illness, drugs or alcohol, elderly care, dementia or mental health.

I’m regularly asked to officiate at funerals because over time I’ve built up relationships with our patients, families, carers or even staff and they often prefer to have someone they know.

I’ve even officiated at the wedding service for a member of our staff.

At the moment I’m organising our Christmas Carol Service in the Surgery Centre and looking forward to getting some local primary school children to come carol singing on the wards.

I’m also a Dementia Champion and Mental First Aider. This is another part of my role which is very important – being here to support our NHS staff because like everyone they have personal lives and problems, as well as the incredibly high-pressured jobs.  So you know who to get in touch with if you want a listening, confidential ear.

There are also rumours that I dance and sing when our activities coordinators have entertainers on the wards. They are all true.

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