POW Chaplaincy Enquiries: 02 9382 2093 Christine.Mao@health.nsw.gov.au
Christine serves at Prince of Wales Hospital in Randwick one day a week. She enjoys bringing the spiritual element of holistic care to a people’s hospital experience. Christine sees God’s hand at work as she has conversations with patients and offers comfort and encouragement to those she visits.
I had previously been working as a Social Worker at Royal Prince Alfred Hospital, which I really enjoyed. I appreciated being part of a multi-discipline team and meeting patients who have been impacted by sickness and the suffering and pain associated with hospitalisation. As a Social Worker though, I was bound by my professional code of conduct which meant I could not openly share about my Christian faith.
I went on to study a Master of Divinity at SMBC, and in my second year I applied for the one day a week chaplaincy position at Prince of Wales Hospital (POW). It was a perfect fit for me – working in the hospital and open doors for me to proclaim I am a Christian. What an amazing opportunity!
I work one day a week, mainly at Prince of Wales Hospital but I also cover the Royal Hospital for Women, Sydney Children’s Hospital and the POW Private Hospital. I see patients who have listed themselves as Presbyterian – so this tends to be an older generation. I also visit Christians with no fixed denomination. In the past I have done ward-based visiting – spinal unit, adolescent mental health, geriatric mental health. In the current pandemic, I have also begun calling COVID-19 patients who have identified themselves as Christian, whilst they are in isolation at home. This is a new dimension to the chaplaincy role.
When I start my day, I print out my list of patients and then go out onto the wards to see who God would have me visit. I say that because often patients are not in their beds – either have gone off for surgery or are in the bathroom or having Physio or some other treatment or test. Sometimes there are teams of doctors gathered around the bedside or there are visitors so I often like to wait until the patient has nobody with them before I introduce myself. Not all patients would like a visit. And I think that is absolutely fine. In fact, we are sometimes one of the only staff whom the patient can refuse! Being given the option to say no is very much part of empowering the patient.
For those who are happy to have a chat, I then like to normalise my visit – quite a few people assume that because I am a chaplain, they must be dying! Whilst this may be the case, I don’t read their medical notes so I don’t know why they are in hospital. I like to come in with as little information as possible so as to allow the patient to share whatever they choose with me. (Most other staff will know everything about them if they have read their notes and so I like to give the choice and power back to the patient to share whatever they want with me.)
Sometimes the visits are very short – just me introducing myself and letting the patient know that chaplains are available. You can tell by their body language whether the patient wants you to hang around. Other times, I am invited to sit down and the patient is more than happy to chat. I am acutely aware of the privilege it is to enter this very vulnerable space, to have the opportunity to listen, to be a non-anxious presence, to bear witness to their stories, to ask questions that they may not have had posed by any other health professional. It is not something I take for granted.
I try to keep praying whilst I am listening, seeking to ‘get out of the way’ so that the Spirit can lead my thoughts, their words, their sharing, and how I listen and respond. I know that I am only in that person’s life for maybe 5 minutes, but the Spirit is doing His work way before and way after I leave. I want to be a good ambassador, leaving the aroma and love of Christ through my presence and witness to Him.
You will receive regular updates from Christine about her work as well as prayer points – so you can partner with her in prayer.
In NSW, the government provides funding for chaplaincy roles like Christine’s, acknowledging the benefits of chaplains in hospitals. However, this only covers part of a chaplain’s wage. To ensure we can sustain our chaplaincy ministry, we need your help. To find out more about how you can support chaplains financially as an individual or as a church, click here.
Don’t forget: You can support Christine financially and with prayer by becoming a sponsor.