Item Details

Pastoral Closeness in Physical Distancing: The Use of Technology in Pastoral Ministry during COVID-19

Issue: Vol 8 No. 2 (2020) Special Issue: COVID-19

Journal: Health and Social Care Chaplaincy

Subject Areas: Healthcare Communication

DOI: 10.1558/hscc.41625


COVID-19 has posed immense challenges for society in general, and for those who work in healthcare in particular. The impact and burden of pandemic isolation on the emotional and physical welfare of patients and staff is well documented. Healthcare systems have come under unprecedented pressure as a result of the pandemic, alongside the imposition of isolation, visiting restrictions, and public health measures to curb the spread of this virus. For patients in hospital, isolation has been further compounded by the necessary use of personal protective equipment, which is a physical barrier to communication for both patients and healthcare staff. These restrictions have also impacted on how healthcare chaplains provide pastoral care to patients, their loved ones, and to colleagues. This article from the Republic of Ireland shares the experiences of healthcare chaplains in the provision of pastoral care through the use of virtual video-call technology by way of tablets and/or other mobile devices. This new approach has proved to be an innovative way of providing pastoral care while having to remain physically distant. Considering the well documented burden of isolation and the societal reality of quarantine, the use of technology is explored by healthcare chaplains with the aim of maintaining pastoral closeness and care.

Author: Michael J. Byrne, Daniel R. Nuzum

View Full Text

References :

Abad, C., Fearday, A., & Safdar, N. (2010). Adverse effects of isolation in hospitalised patients: a systematic review. Journal of Hospital Infection, 76(2), 97-102. doi:10.1016/j.jhin.2010.04.027

Brooks, S. K., Webster, R. K., Smith, L. E., Woodland, L., Wessely, S., Greenberg, N., & Rubin, G. J. (2020). The psychological impact of quarantine and how to reduce it: rapid review of the evidence. Lancet, 395(10227), 912-920. doi:10.1016/S0140-6736(20)30460-8

Clyne, B., O'Neill, S. M., Nuzum, D., O'Neill, M., Larkin, J., Ryan, M., & Smith, S. M. (2019). Patients' spirituality perspectives at the end of life: a qualitative evidence synthesis. BMJ Supportive and Palliative Care. doi:10.1136/bmjspcare-2019-002016

Cullen, W., Gulati, G., & Kelly, B. D. (2020). Mental health in the COVID-19 pandemic. QJM, 113(5), 311-312. doi:10.1093/qjmed/hcaa110

Drummond, D., & Carey, L. (2020). Chaplaincy and Spiritual Care Response to COVID-19:An Australian Case Study – The McKellar Centre. Health and Social Care Chaplaincy, 8(2). doi:

Greenberg, N., Docherty, M., Gnanapragasam, S., & Wessely, S. (2020). Managing mental health challenges faced by healthcare workers during covid-19 pandemic. British Medical Journal, 368, m1211. doi:10.1136/bmj.m1211

Hollander, J. E., & Carr, B. G. (2020). Virtually Perfect? Telemedicine for Covid-19. New England Journal of Medicine, 382(18), 1679-1681. doi:10.1056/NEJMp2003539

Houghton, C., Meskell, P., Delaney, H., Smalle, M., Glenton, C., Booth, A., . . . Biesty, L. M. (2020). Barriers and facilitators to healthcare workers' adherence with infection prevention and control (IPC) guidelines for respiratory infectious diseases: a rapid qualitative evidence synthesis. Cochrane Database Systematic Reviews, 4, CD013582. doi:10.1002/14651858.CD013582

Kang, L., Ma, S., Chen, M., Yang, J., Wang, Y., Li, R., . . . Liu, Z. (2020). Impact on mental health and perceptions of psychological care among medical and nursing staff in Wuhan during the 2019 novel coronavirus disease outbreak: A cross-sectional study. Brain, Behaviour and Immunity. doi:10.1016/j.bbi.2020.03.028

Kelly, E. (2012). Personhood and Presence: Self as a Resource for Spiritual and Pastoral Care (1st ed.). London: T & T Clark International.

Lai, J., Ma, S., Wang, Y., Cai, Z., Hu, J., Wei, N., . . . Hu, S. (2020). Factors Associated With Mental Health Outcomes Among Health Care Workers Exposed to Coronavirus Disease 2019. JAMA Network Open, 3(3), e203976. doi:10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2020.3976

Leong, I. Y., Lee, A. O., Ng, T. W., Lee, L. B., Koh, N. Y., Yap, E., . . . Ng, L. M. (2004). The challenge of providing holistic care in a viral epidemic: opportunities for palliative care. Palliative Medicine, 18(1), 12-18. doi:10.1191/0269216304pm859oa

Lobb, E. A., Schmidt, S., Jerzmanowska, N., Swing, A. M., & Thristiawati, S. (2019). Patient Reported Outcomes of Pastoral Care in a Hospital Setting. Journal of Health Care Chaplaincy, 25(4), 131-146. doi:10.1080/08854726.2018.1490059

McCormick, S. C., & Hildebrand, A. A. (2015). A qualitative study of patient and family perceptions of chaplain presence during post-trauma care. Journal of Health Care Chaplaincy, 21(2), 60-75. doi:10.1080/08854726.2015.1016317

Nolan, S. (2011). Chaplain as “Hopeful Presence”: Working with Dying People. Practical Theology, 4(2), 165-179. 

Nolan, S. (2012). Spiritual care at the end of life : the chaplain as a 'helpful presence'. London: Jessica Kingsley.

Nuzum, D. (2020). The COVID-19 dilemma: how to maintain physical distance without sacrificing pastoral closeness. SEARCH, 43(2), 104-107. 

Nuzum, D., Meaney, S., & O'Donoghue, K. (2017). Communication skills in obstetrics: what can we learn from bereaved parents? Irish Medical Journal, 110(2), 512. 

Nuzum, D., Meaney, S., O'Donoghue, K., & Jackson, M. (2017). Stillbirth and suffering in Ireland: a theological reflection from healthcare chaplaincy. Practical Theology, 10(2), 187-200. doi:10.1080/1756073X.2017.1296062