What role does religion and spirituality play in our experience of health and wellbeing? How does the biomedical focus of current healthcare practice affect us?
This interdisciplinary degree programme examines what it means to be ill or healthy in diverse, individualized and highly technological societies, from psychological, cultural, ethical, and political perspectives. Not only does religious, cultural, political, physical, and technological diversity influence how we try to recover or maintain our health, it also influences what we think 'health' is in the first place.
This track within the Master's Programme in Theology and Religious Studies, has two specializations: 'Spiritual Care [Geestelijke Verzorging]' and 'Ethics and Diversity'.
› The specialization in Ethics and Diversity imparts the academic knowledge and skills to examine the anthropological, sociological, and ethical dimensions of health and well-being. This specialization is taught in English.
› The specialization in Spiritual Care imparts the academic and practical knowledge and skills needed to examine the psychological, ethical, and spiritual dimensions of health and wellbeing, enabling you to become a registered spiritual care giver [geestelijk verzorger]. This specialization is mainly taught in Dutch.
The reciprocity is what makes the work inspiring
The decision to study Spiritual Care in Groningen was an important one for me, as I believe it was for many other students. Indeed, it was the consequence of personal development and events in my life until then. After my studies in Industrial Engineering and Management, I witnessed spiritual care at my volunteer job in a hospice. I thought it was a very special profession.
The UG degree programme in general spiritual care appealed to me because I don't adhere to any one religion. Plus, I could follow the Master's degree programme after a shortened pre-Master's programme. What I like about the Master's is how the course units combine an academic level with a focus on practice. Psychopathology & Religion is a good example of this. They challenge you to reflect on the theory and your own position in it as a future spiritual carer. The combination of course units and a placement also spark a different learning process: that of dealing with stress and (re)claiming your own space and inspiration to function properly as a spiritual carer.
I now work as a spiritual carer at the UMCG, where I did my placement. I enjoy working in a hospital very much. On the one hand because it is about collaborating with other care providers in a dynamic organization; on the other hand because it allows you to counsel people at a precarious time in their lives: being sick and hospitalized is often a very profound experience. It is a time at which existential questions may arise and spiritual care may be needed. In the hustle and bustle of a hospital environment, spiritual care enables you to focus on the effects of illness on a person, but also to find someone's sources of strength and inspiration. I believe that the conversations we have can be wholesome and rewarding for patients and spiritual carers alike. So you could say there is reciprocity in our relationships with people, which makes the work inspiring for me.
A solid basis for practice
What attracted me in Spiritual Care was its attention to meaning
and existential questions. The opportunity to become an independent
spiritual carer made the Groningen programme ideal for me. The
atmosphere was open, with students and lecturers stimulating each
other and critically exploring each other's views.
Everyone showed geniality, interest, commitment and an eye for context, without making concessions to academic quality – exactly the qualities of a good spiritual carer! I now realize that the theory I gained in course units like Psychopathology and Religion and Care Ethics are not only a solid basis in daily practice, but they also help me reflect on that practice.
I really love my job as a spiritual carer in nursing homes. I was drawn to elderly care because of its special way of communicating with residents. My creativity is constantly being challenged there by questions like: how can I get through to residents? What do their seemingly unrelated statements mean? How can I connect with their reality? My tasks here are very diverse. Of course I talk to people, in groups and individually. But I also provide palliative care and lead liturgical services and memorial services in the residents’ living room. In addition, I participate in various networks, such as the Alzheimer Café and the Palliative Network, and I keep in touch with spiritual carers and ministers in the area.
Since my graduation, I have gained so much experience that I returned to the Faculty recently. Not as a student, but as a lecturer, teaching the course unit in Conversation Techniques and Group Dynamics and to supervise internships of students in Spiritual Care.