Spiritual care as a fundamental dimension of person-centred holistic care

Oxford Centre for Spirituality and Wellbeing (OCSW) supports health and social care staff to engage in questions of meaning, purpose and value.

Spiritual care as a fundamental dimension of person-centred holistic care
Guy Harrison

Revd Dr Guy Harrison

“Spirituality is one of those dimensions of life that comes into focus at times of crisis or when there’s a profound change in one’s life,” says Revd Dr Guy Harrison, Head of Spiritual and Pastoral Care and Director of OCSW at Oxford Health. “It is also an area that many people don’t necessarily feel confident or knowledgeable about,” he adds.

The Oxford Centre for Spirituality and Wellbeing provides training for staff so that they are supported to provide spiritual care as a fundamental dimension of person-centred holistic care.

The Centre has now been established as a centre within Oxford Health NHS Foundation Trust, with a board chaired by Chief Nurse Marie Crofts. It has strong links to Oxford Brookes University including the Oxford Institute of Nursing, Midwifery & Allied Health Research, and a programme of research, training and staff wellbeing initiatives such as free Recovery and Renewal days.

Vision for holistic care

The vision for the Centre is the development of evidence based, compassionate and holistic care which addresses not only the symptoms of a person’s illness, but also enables them to experience being cared for with compassion and respect, including their spiritual and religious needs. Guy says:

“If anyone is seeking to support patients in terms of their spiritual, religious and pastoral care, they also need to be asking themselves the kind of questions that have an effect on the whole person. What gives hope? What gives value? What is life really about? Most recently, because of the pandemic, the questions of meaning and purpose have come to the fore for both patients and staff.”

Among the Centre’s offerings is the first university accredited Postgraduate Certificate in Psycho Spiritual Care in the UK. The current course has 14 students and has received enquiries from all over the world, instilling the hope of providing it online, too, in the future.

Currently running is a series of six webinars, part of the The LiSHoRe Project which stands for Listen, Share, Hold, Respond. It is a national study investigating the spiritual and religious experiences of ethnically diverse NHS staff during the COVID-19 pandemic.

OCSW logo

The Centre has its own website – click on the logo to access it.

In the past three years OCSW has organised 14 workshops for health and social care staff, run a conference for 100 participants, hosted three annual lectures by nationally known clinical academics working in the field of spiritual care, presented four seminars for healthcare staff, and under the umbrella of the spiritual and pastoral care team hosted several retreats for staff at Oxford Health.

And for those who are struggling with what spirituality is, what would Guy say?

“I’m notoriously bad at any kind of elevator pitch,” he laughs. “But I would say it is about one’s relationship with oneself, about connection to others and about our relationship to those things that are beyond us, the transcendent and the mystical.

“It is an opportunity to engage with those parts of human being which are to do with the spirit. They’re central to a future and a vision of health care that is inclusive and truly involves everybody,” Guy believes.

For more information, courses and resources, see:

Oxford Centre for Spirituality and Wellbeing

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Published: 18 November 2021