“I hold patients’ hearts in my hand”
As an IT consultant, Arun Chatterjee made a good living. But he felt unfulfilled and wondered if there was more to life.
“Something deeper was missing,” recalls Arun. “I was raised in the Hindu faith, but in a family that embraced all kinds of consciousness. I wanted more from my work.”
After his “awakening,” Arun moved to B.C. where he immersed himself in community work, including an interfaith ministry providing food for homeless people in Surrey. This interfaith work led him to the Vancouver School of Theology (VST). He did his clinical pastoral education internship and residency at VGH concurrently.
Upon graduation in 2016, Arun began a part-time job as an interfaith spiritual care practitioner at George Pearson Centre (GPC). A year later, he took on another half-time position; this time at Vancouver General Hospital (VGH).
Spiritual care for all
Spiritual care and multifaith services are offered across VCH to acute care patients, care home residents, families and staff irrespective of religious or spiritual affiliation. At VGH, spiritual care practitioners, Residents and interns are onsite seven days per week and available on call 24 hours.
Interfaith spiritual care practitioners like Arun help those who seek support to face illness, trauma or the dying process. They support clients in their journey, helping to lessen suffering. This often means being a supportive presence and providing empathetic listening, says Arun.
“People in hospital often struggle emotionally; it can be hard to accept what’s happening. They feel vulnerable. It’s the same for family members. There can be fear, sadness, grief, regret and guilt,” he explains.
“These are spiritual matters that everyone experiences. When people share their pain, frustration, or perhaps even joy, they feel they’re not alone. I hold patients’ hearts in my hand so they can explore life’s meaning.”
Enhancing quality of life
Arun splits his time between VGH and GPC, serving distinct needs under distinctly different circumstances.
At VGH, patients are counselled for a limited time before discharge. Sadly, hospital clients are sometimes family members in need of spiritual care after a loved one passes. At GPC, Arun works with long-term residents with complex chronic illnesses.
“You build up trust over time; a lot of care happens non-verbally… simply by being present,” says Arun. “Spiritual care provides our clients with healing and a better quality of life.”
“Arun’s presence can make both clients and colleagues feel their deep value as human beings and experience a connection to something bigger than themselves, even if that something is experienced as an ineffable connection of two persons in a brief moment of sharing,” says Doug Longstafffe, profession leader, Spiritual Care and Multifaith Services.
“We’re very fortunate to have persons of this caliber on our staff. The impact they have may be invisible at times, yet it’s most palpable to those receiving care.”
During Spiritual & Religious Care Awareness Week, October 16 to 22, VCH Spiritual Care & Multifaith Services staff and students will be attending a display table at VGH. Visit them on the first floor main concourse of the Jim Pattison Pavilion to learn more about their services.