Rev. Geoffrey Ndivo Speaks On the Role of Chaplains in Mass Casuality Incidents

Rev. Geoffrey Ndivo, is the lead chaplain at AIC Kijabe Hospital.

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Rev. Geoffrey Ndivo. Photo/Courtesy.

Mass casualty incidents generate a sufficiently large number of casualties whereby the available healthcare resources, or their management systems, are severely challenged or unable to meet the healthcare needs of the affected population.

Once a trauma alert is made, the chaplains are part of the responders with a focus on helping the families and friends of those involved in the incident. Their presence is essential and calming in this high-paced and stressful environment. Coordinating especially with the trauma nurse and other trauma team members, they find ways how to best care for the victims and their families.

Understandably, this role comes with great challenges because patients’ families and friends are often extremely stressed. “They struggle with making meaning amid trauma,” says Rev Geoffrey Ndivo, our lead chaplain. “We work with them not just to provide pastoral care, but to help them manage their anger, frustration, and fear. Sometimes people want to assign blame and the chaplain is often the target. However, being the first contact when friends and family of patients arrive at the Accident & Emergency Unit, this is expected,” he adds.

“Most of the time, they have questions only a medic can answer and this may lead to frustration and anxiety.”

The results are worth the tussle. Many patients appreciate having the chaplain around. S/he helps them cope, feel more hopeful and find the strength to hold on. AIC Kijabe Hospital is fortunate to have Chaplains who have both theological training and specialized training for our healthcare provision environment.

Although chaplains mainly focus on helping family members during trauma, they also prioritize supporting and building relationships with members of the trauma alert group. The constant influx of injured patients can leave clinicians psychologically and physically drained. Staff reaches out to chaplains – sometimes for a brief, quiet conversation during a break-in activity – but “active listening works even in a short interaction,” Rev Ndivo notes.

“If staff members know they can be heard deeply without having to say much, it becomes easier sharing vulnerabilities,” he concludes. A debrief is also occasionally arranged for the clinicians on a need basis. 

Source: AIC Kijabe Hospital.

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