60 seconds with Claire Carson
13 June 2018
Claire Carson, head of chaplaincy and spiritual care
Can you introduce yourself and tell us a bit about your background?
I’m originally from Newcastle Upon Tyne and was brought up in an agnostic and atheist family. It was my teenage rebellion to go to church. I was fascinated by this building I walked passed each day which I wasn’t allowed to go in. My curiosity and my love of music eventually got me in there. I was ordained as an Anglican priest 15 years ago.
How long have you been a chaplain?
I’ve been a healthcare chaplain for 11 years. My first post as a hospital chaplain was at the RFH from 2007 to 2010. My interest in healthcare chaplaincy started while I was studying theology and psychology at university. I am particularly interested in paediatric chaplaincy in the UK and palliative care in Africa. I have developed links with Hospice Africa Uganda over the last few years and visited several times to explore what spiritual care means there.
What do you do in your spare time?
I love music and art. Music particularly has been a big part of my life. I have spent many years in orchestras and bands, playing clarinet and alto saxophone. I play piano too, but these days mainly for my own relaxation. I hope to bring lots more music and art to the chaplaincy-spiritual care department.
Tell us about your role…
Expect the unexpected seems the best way to approach my work. I can come into work with one plan and almost certainly end up involved in something completely different. The day might start with a baby’s funeral, then a teaching session, a visit to a patient who has been referred, volunteer supervision, a pregnancy loss, staff support… on the more unusual days, I might be called to arrange an emergency marriage or a baptism.
What does the team offer?
As a chaplaincy-spiritual care team we want to encourage compassionate, holistic care for everyone, being respectful of diversity and celebrating all of our traditions. We offer spiritual, religious and pastoral support to patients, visitors, volunteers, and staff.
We are here for people of all faiths and beliefs. You certainly don’t have to think of yourself as religious to use our service.
What do you enjoy most about your job?
I love the variety and unexpected nature of my work. I enjoy working in a multi-faith and belief team. It’s great sitting in the office chatting with a rabbi, imam, Roman Catholic priest and whoever else may be there. I meet some amazing people. It’s a real privilege to listen to their stories and be invited into their lives, even if only for a few minutes.
What is the most rewarding part of your job?
Every day my job reminds me how precious and fragile life is. So many people I talk to wish they had been able to talk about death with their family and friends sooner. Being open, honest and having the courage to talk about death and dying can transform the way we live.