Reflections on the Journey
Written by Philip Murray, Spiritual Health Leader and Educator, Spiritual Health / Professional Practice

During an opening ceremony at Fraser Health's Patient Experience Conference, an Elder in Residence reflected on the nature of spirituality as part of each person’s life regardless of race, creed or tribe.

Fraser Health’s Patient Experience Conference was held in early November with the theme “Driving Quality Through Collaboration”. While all the conference workshops and presentations were engaging and exciting, I was most touched by the opening ceremonies which were led by Francis Horne, the Elder in Residence in Chilliwack, Agassiz and Hope.

Francis Horne, the Elder in Residence in Chilliwack, Agassiz and Hope, speaking at the Patient Experience Conference.

During one of these ceremonies, Francis reflected on the nature of spirituality as being a part of each person’s experience regardless of race, creed or tribe. He shared that the “spirit” is an inherent aspect of life which connects us to a power and presence that is both within us and beyond ourselves. Grounded in an understanding that humans are both physical and meta-physical beings, the spirit is that element of humanity which is part of our being but which cannot be seen under a microscope, and which ultimately has a profound impact on our experience of life.

Francis continued to reflect that we are able to connect with this spiritual reality through love. The experiences we have when we give or receive love, when we are with those whom we love or who love us, or when we are engaged in activities that we love doing, are all essentially spiritual experiences. Taking this a step further, providing health care from a place of love and compassion for those we are serving ensures that the spirit is present in the work that we do and the care we provide.

Fraser Health provides services within the ancestral, traditional and unceded territories of a number of Coast Salish First Nations. Acknowledging this reality and intentionally requesting permission from local indigenous communities to do our work on this land is an essential part of reconciliation. I am grateful that Chilliwack, Agassiz and Hope Health Services are leading the way by having an Elder in Residence available to provide spiritual support to the First Nations people we care for in these areas, and to guide us all as we navigate and attend to this important aspect of our work.

Attending to spiritual health is vital to overall well-being and an important aspect of providing person-centred care. Addressing the spiritual needs of those we care for can result in such outcomes as an increased ability to “make meaning” in the midst of illness, injury and trauma; increased ability to cope with pain, nausea and discomfort; increased motivation to complete the tasks of healing; decreased feelings of anxiety, depression, loneliness and anger; decreased alcohol and drug abuse; shorter hospital stays; and greater use of palliative care at end of life.

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