Trust chaplain Sister Jean Searson has been presented with a silver framed certificate, flowers and cards to mark two decades of service at the hospital.
Having completed her chaplaincy training in her home city of Dublin, Jean – a Roman Catholic nun – moved to Chelmsford in January 1999 from a posting in Birmingham.
Initially working part-time with specific care for Roman Catholic patients, Jean has seen her role and the chaplaincy team grow.
“There’s a gift in being in once place for twenty years because you recognise patient’s names when they come back. Patients will ask for you. I’ve seen five lead chaplains, five Catholic priests, and lots of other Trust chaplains. I became involved with training volunteers and the spiritual side of the chaplaincy team, running quiet days and self-care days. I really enjoy the creative spirituality side.”
Jean, who has been treated twice for breast cancer, now works two days a week and enjoys her work as much as ever.
“Every day is different. You don’t know what’s going to happen or who you’re going to journey with. Some of the encounters can be very simple. Just sitting and holding someone’s hand can make a difference. There are surprises every day, there are highs and lows with it, and when you’re bleeped you never know where you might go.
“I do a lot more end-of-life with patients and family. There’s a sense of being very comfortable with people who are journeying at the end of life. It’s very much a privileged place to be. Just to be able to sit with patients who are dying and reassure the patient or the family, there’s a real sense of rightness about it, of it being sacred ground. Being with a family when someone is dying is very special and, with experience, I feel comfortable there.
“I’m passionate about being with people. I enjoy listening to people’s stories – what’s important to them, what gives them life. We’re privileged being the only members of staff that have time. We are not rushing somewhere else. Even ten minutes with somebody can be really quality time.”
Lead chaplain Tim Blake paid tribute to Jean: “Jean’s contribution to the volunteer programme at Broomfield can’t be overstated. She has radically changed the way in which chaplaincy volunteers are recruited and trained. She sets very high standards and does so with compassion and kindness, and reaches out to others with great care.”
After twenty years at Broomfield and 47 as a nun, does Jean have any thoughts of retirement?
“Retire? Nuns don’t retire, we get upcycled!”
At a special service in the chaplaincy to celebrate Jean’s time at Broomfield she chose this blessing, which she’d like to share:
Now is the time to free the heart,
Let all intentions and worries stop
Free the joy inside the self,
Awaken to the wonder of your life
Open your eyes and see the friends
Whose hearts recognize your face as kin,
Those whose kindness watchful and near,
Encourages you to live everything here.
See the gifts the years have given,
Things your effort could never earn,
The health to enjoy who you want to be,
And the mind to mirror the mystery.
John O’Donohue from To Bless the Space Between Us