Great news for our lecturer and researcher, Dr Hanneke Muthert! The associate professor of the Psychology of Religion and Spiritual Care at the Faculty of Theology and Religious Studies has been awarded a Gratama Foundation grant worth € 11,000 for her project Geestelijke verzorging bij rampen in Nederland. Een verkenning van de precieze rol van geestelijk verzorgers bij calamiteiten (‘Spiritual care during disasters in the Netherlands: an exploration of the specific role of spiritual caregivers in crisis situations’).
Muthert explained that she wrote her application before the start of the coronavirus pandemic and that the decision was made to rewrite her research proposal based on the disruptive situation that unfolded due to COVID-19, to focus entirely on spiritual care during the coronavirus pandemic. Muthert explains: ‘Attention for the positive role of spiritual meaning in the wellbeing of individuals is growing. Yet research by the University of Groningen and societal partners has shown that in the Netherlands, aid provided during and after disasters does not adequately include a coordinated focus on the spiritual aspect. We are also lacking specific data on what spiritual caregivers actually do during disasters and what they are not or not yet doing. Since 2018, we have been closely observing the deployment of spiritual caregivers in the Groningen earthquake area. As a result of the coronavirus outbreak, an entire group of professionals have suddenly gained experience in providing spiritual aid during crises.’ At the end of April, Muthert wrote a column in the Dagblad van het Noorden newspaper on the important role that spiritual caregivers could play during the coronavirus pandemic.
The associate professor continues: ‘The survey tool that we have been using in Groningen was quickly adapted to conduct a number of nationwide measurements as well. This data provides insight into the need that spiritual caregivers have noted for spiritual care among various target groups, what these caregivers are allowed to and can do, who they cooperate with, which dilemmas they have indicated and the support that they require to be able to provide care and stay physically and mentally healthy themselves in the long term. We plan to use this tool at least twice more. We have also begun to set up focus groups for the purpose of adding to the data gathered and we are checking in with a few caregivers on a bimonthly basis. This is important because research on disasters and emergency situations shows that the phase following a crisis is often fraught with existential questions and concerns. As a result, we are focusing specifically on changes to people’s living situations and homes, where people recover from their healthcare-related and other experiences in the context of COVID-19.’
Muthert is pleased with the support offered to this project by the Gratama Foundation: ‘By analysing the data collected through pioneers’ creativity, we expect to be able to provide more insight into the current practices of spiritual caregivers during and after disasters and crises. In this way, the project will contribute to specific policy advice and provide information for the education and training of spiritual caregivers (start of webinar: 2 July 2020). The project will also contribute to making spiritual meaning and worldviews a fixed part of responding to disasters, where necessary,’ the associate professor explained.
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