In the pastoral care of the sick, it is not only the patient who is cared for; family members, friends and healthcare professionals are also involved in this spiritual accompaniment. Palabra talks to Tomás Sanz, a deacon working in the Palliative Care Unit of the Hospital La Paz in Madrid.
Text - Fernando Serrano
18,587 are the volunteers who carry out their assistance activities in the Pastoral de la Salud in Spain, in addition to the priests and deacons who work in health centers. One of the people who works among the patients and doctors in a hospital is Tomás Sanz, a permanent deacon who several days a week provides spiritual care to the patients in the Palliative Care Unit of the Hospital La Paz in Madrid, a center where the Pastoral de la Salud is carrying out a pilot program of end-of-life care.
Work among healthcare personnel
Tomás Sanz has been working at La Paz Hospital for just over a year. Before being ordained deacon he had already been a volunteer in different actions of care for the sick, and had been trained in the care of patients who are in their last stage of life.
Tomás explains that his work is carried out for all the people around him: patients, doctors, families, nurses...".First the patient, then the family and then the healthcare team. They are all susceptible to being a unit of intervention. Because really all the people, whether they are volunteers or in paid work, because they are all professionals, really all these people who are in permanent contact with the suffering have to carry out a self-care task. From the second month on, there is not an afternoon that goes by that I do not see the doctors.".
"At first, when I arrived, the doctors and other health care personnel were cautious.", explains Tomás, who also works in a tax consulting and auditing office. "At the beginning they were pending: Let's see who this guy is, who calls himself a spiritual assistant, but his accreditation says chaplain; who is not a priest and tells us that he is a permanent deacon and has explained it to us'". However, as he tells us, the situation changed quickly: "He is not a priest and he tells us that he is a permanent deacon and he has explained it to us.It is true that I went into the rooms of those who had called us. I did not limit myself to taking the Lord, but I also accompanied him. I was in each room for perhaps an hour, and the probability that the doctor would come in during that time was very low. Until one day a doctor came in to see the patient. That doctor looked at me, introduced herself and stayed there. A month later I ran into a doctor from the unit at the nurse's station and he approached me. This made me think that I had made some noise, that my work could be of interest and that things were not going badly. Because far from telling me not to go into any room, he told me that it would be interesting for me to take part in the team meetings.".