“For the first time in ISKCON - UK, a five-day Certificate Course for Clinical Chaplaincy was organized in Bhaktivedanta Manor by the Department of Spiritual Care of Bhaktivedanta Hospital, Mumbai, India. Dr. V.G.Shanbhag (Vishwarup das), Deputy Director of Bhaktivedanta Hospital and Rajesh Kadam (Ramsharan das), Manager, Department Of Spiritual Care, conducted this course for the congregational devotees of London.
Srila Prabhupada's disciples, Tribhangananda das and Radha Priya devi dasi and twenty two others participated in this training as students. Six Bhakti Vriksha students undertook this course and passed successfully. Three registered nurses graduated as nurse chaplains.
It was an endeavour by Bhaktivedanta Hospital to train devotees in UK to become clinical chaplains in a professional way so that they can provide spiritual care to sick devotees from UK congregation at their homes and while being admitted in the hospital. Such devotee chaplains will also be eligible to provide generic spiritual care to anyone admitted in UK hospitals, nursing homes and hospices on request."
The newly graduates
Sukanti Radha devi dasi - a registered nurse, registered Intensive care sister and registered midwife reminisces the build up to this glorious graduation day. She says:
“One day I went to work at the ICU in Northwick Park Hospital NHS Trust. I was allocated to a patient. Before I commence any of my shifts I always mentally pray to Guru and Gauranga then I scan with my eyes my patient and the bedside. On doing so I spotted a photo of Sri Radha Gokulananda and next to it was a picture of Lord Nrsingadev. On having darshan of Lord Nrsingadev I knew this was to be a devotee. My patient was on a ventilator and could not speak to me to confirm this. I waited for visiting hours to enquire from his family. His daughter arrived and confirmed that he was a devotee of Bhaktivedanta Manor.
Sadly my patient was critical. Knowing the patient was a very good devotee from the Manor temple and with the families permission I called one of the devotees to come render last rites. I was then informed that devotees were trying to enter the ICU for a month but was denied access as devotees were saying they were the patients relative. Since ICU only allows immediate family extended families were not allowed. I then spoke to the Sister in charge giving her an overview of our philosophy and spiritual care. She then allowed the ISKCON devotees to visit. The Manor devotees and head priest responded immediately. A puja, kirtan and last rites were offered and the patient left his body in the most beautiful and peaceful way.
I then spoke to Ashok das who is the son-in-law of the patient and enquired if he would like to join the chaplaincy team at Northwick Park Hospital offering chaplaincy service to vaishnav’s since as a nurse I am often left in a situation where I come across a devotee that has taken ill and there is a little difficulty in trying to find a devotee to visit and render professional ISKCON Chaplaincy care. Once Ashok agreed, I contacted the necessary authorities and we set up the service at the hospital with advice from HG Praghosa das –ISKCON UK GBC. I then contacted Bhaktivedanta Hospital Spiritual care department, specifically Vishwarup das (Dr V Shanbhag- Head of Spiritual Care Department – Bhaktivedanta Hospital) and together we worked on developing an ISKCON UK Clinical Chaplaincy curriculum with elements that was viable for an NHS hospital.”
Sukanti Radha explains that every ISKCON nurse should desire to become an ISKCON nurse chaplain. She says it makes one appreciate nursing as a service rather than a job.
Manikundala devi dasi a disciple of Tamal Krishna Goswami and a Mental Health nurse in the NHS says: “the Clinical Chaplaincy long awaited course met all my expectations and as a nurse I would highly recommend it to all healthcare professionals who wish to provide spiritual care.”
It is a year now that the ISKCON UK Chaplaincy service was trialled at Northwick Park Hospital NHS trust and proved very successful with two part time ISKCON Chaplains.
The ISKCON UK Chaplaincy service is now rendered free of charge in the NHS, nursing homes and hospices. Devotees, their friends and family can now request this service from ISKCON UK.
There is now a first pioneering group of professionally qualified ISKCON UK Chaplains.
The certificate course has been warmly welcomed by many ISKCON leaders.
The next ISKCON UK Clinical Chaplaincy course is scheduled for April 2014. It is open to Europe and Ireland devotees. Please contact Sukanti Radha Devi dasi on firstname.lastname@example.org
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