I’m Swami Suryananda, a senior monk at Skanda Vale Monastery. People also know me as Brother Michael.
Patient centred care is about being the patient, yourself. It’s about identifying yourself with that patient. So it’s about having that incredible sensitivity.
Rather than saying to the person, this is who we are, this is how we do it, so you have to fit in with our way of doing things, it’s about “What is important to you?”
“Who are the people that are important in your life? What are the things that are important to you? How would you like your day to unfold?”
And for that you need space and you need time and you need resources – you need people. You know, a lot of the care we have here is pretty much one-to-one care.
Live, learn, love
If you look at how many volunteers we have in the hospice today – I don’t know how many we’ve actually physically got here in the building today, but we’ve got six inpatients and ten day patients, and the place has probably got 40 or 50 volunteers here.
Some in the garden, some nursing, some care assistants, some in the kitchen, some in reception, administration. You know, there are people all over the place, but it’s alive.
You don’t walk into the day room and find six people sitting in recliners watching a telly. The place is full of life, full of joy. It’s living. It’s like a living organism, it’s vibrant. And that’s what it has to be. That’s patient centred care.
And we’ve got to increase the service further now, we need help. It’s not just about needing help, it’s the excitement of seeing when a person has got something to give and when they’ve got the opportunity to give that, how that transforms, not just that person, but transforms everyone around them.
And when you get a group of people like that together, that collective consciousness, of giving, of love, of sharing, it creates an amazing energy and an amazing vibration.
That is what transforms people when they come through the door of the hospice. That’s what a patient says is a tangible experience of love, when they come through the door of the hospice. That’s half the battle done when a person comes to Skanda Vale Hospice.
Again, if you ask a lot of the carers here, they might have had a long shift, but they’re energised at the end of it. Yes, there’s been difficulties, there have been tears, there’s been pressures and stuff, but where they’ve been able to forget themselves in that expression of love, then that grace flows.
We can help ignite that flow of grace within each other. That’s when you’ve got an amazing team of people coming together. You get a few people charged, or used to operating and working in that consciousness of grace, then it’s infectious. It ignites everyone else.
That’s why people love being here. That’s why people love volunteering here. Because it’s a tangible experience. Of power and energy. And that power and energy is directed in the most beautiful way – to service.
Drop the ego
It’s a movement of consciousness, away from I, me, mine. It’s a movement in consciousness to where you’re giving. Where your whole way of thinking, your whole preoccupation is about others. About service.
About using this instrument, this body, the mind, the faculties, the intelligence, the life experience – using this constructively to serve.
Then the grace flows unimpeded, then what you can achieve, you’re not achieving anything, but what the Divine achieves, or that power of love achieves through this instrument is incredible. It’s beautiful! Amazing.
That’s what people can’t understand about this place. How does it happen? How does it work?
Keep it simple
You know, when someone has an aspiration to be a nurse, to be a doctor, they want to care for people. They want to be able to hold someone’s hand, to be able to express love in that act of care.
I think there are so many people that have a longing to be fulfilled in their life. They’re looking for something, they’re looking for meaning in their life. And yes the temple provides a structure, it provides an opportunity for people to express their love for God. Doesn’t matter what religion they’re from.
But that works best when it’s also channelled into service, into Seva. And that was Guru’s passion. His passion was life, his passion was caring for life. His passion was realising the unity of life.
Adopt the beginner’s mindset
What’s amazing here is that we have consultants volunteering here as health care support workers. They’ve been up-skilled to work as health care support workers! And these are people who work as consultants in the NHS. It’s amazing.
We’ve got nurses who volunteer here as health care support workers. Because they love to care. Because they love to hold someone’s hand, because they love to talk to a patient. Because they love to feed somebody lunch.
There’s no ego. It’s like, ‘I want to give’. And what’s amazing is they’ll do the awkward shifts. They’ll do the night shifts at weekends. Because their motivation is serving humanity with love.
Okay, some of our palliative nurses are paid, but there’s no ‘oh you’re a paid member of staff, and you’re a volunteer, so we treat you differently.’
Some people need money, some people don’t need money. Some people like to volunteer, some people have to pay bills. Come on, it’s a family, it’s a team. You treat people with that respect and you value your staff, and they give so much. Whether they’re volunteers or they’re paid staff.
And you don’t have this ‘Oh you can’t do this because you’re not paid to do that, or you can only do this if you’re this, that and the other’.
It’s not like that here. It’s a team of people. But it’s a very professional team of people who really know what they are doing. And they are really competent in the delivery of safe palliative care to our patients. And we’ll never compromise on that. Person-centred safe care, for every single one of our patients.
So come and be a member of the team!
If you would like to find out more about joining our team as a volunteer clinician, we are able to offer a good standard of free accommodation. Take a look inside…
Video produced by Alan Boxall