ONE of Hillingdon Hospital’s most unusual employees is hospital chaplain Jack Creagh, who provides a quiet but reassuring presence for people in need.
Hospital is one of the few places where people of all faiths come together under one roof and, strangely enough, where Jack often puts religion aside in his day-to-day work.
He doesn’t wear a clerical collar or cross, unless required, and shows no outward sign of his Roman Catholic faith.
“The two most important qualities of my work in hospital are compassion and listening,” says the American-born chaplain who spent 18 years, involved in missionary work in East Africa.
He is also refreshingly down-to-earth about the public’s perception of hospital chaplains as ‘people who loiter with intent at patients’ bedsides’.
“People think of the chaplain as someone downstairs, who wears a cassock,” Jack says with a laugh. “I like to challenge that stereotype and let people know I am here for everyone.”
He prefers the description of providing spiritual and pastoral care and is often alerted to people’s plight by ward sisters, after which he quietly pays a visit, asking if they would like to talk.
He might be called to perform last rites, support a mother who has lost a child in labour or talk to a member of staff who has been personally affected by an incident.
If a patient passes away and has no relatives or financial savings, Jack is on hand to smooth the path and make the necessary arrangements.
It’s testament to his caring nature that he has been called on to preside over memorial services of many different faiths, including Christians, Hindus and Sikhs at one of two designated graveyards.
How does he balance the measured clinical environment of a hospital with the emotional and spiritual need of some of its patients?
“Medical procedures don’t alleviate spiritual pain and the two approaches can sit comfortably aside one another,” he said. “We’re all people at the end of the day.”
He is certainly a man who likes to keep busy and saves time by travelling to and from work on his powerful 500cc motorbike.
Jack was recently voted a winner at the annual staff awards and is also a trust governor, CARE ambassador and trained psychotherapist.
He added: “The NHS has been through a lot of change in the past three years and chaplaincy services have had to weather the storm, along with everyone else.
“Greater care and compassion are the national agenda after incidents like Mid-Staffs, and we have an important role to play in that.”