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Q&A: June Son, chaplain, Spiritual Care

Toronto, February 4, 2014

By Evelyne Jhung

June Son
June Son (Photo by Yuri Markarov)

June Son is certified as a spiritual care specialist by the Canadian Association of Spiritual Care and holds a master’s of Divinity. She joined St. Michael’s Hospital in 2008 and is one of eight full-time chaplains, each of whom is responsible for specific units. Son covers Oncology and shares responsibility for Medicine with another staff chaplain.

What role do you play on a care team? How do you connect with patients?

As an active member of a multidisciplinary team, I attend daily rounds on my units, where I share my spiritual assessments of patients with the team so as to develop the best possible care plan for the patient. I am often involved in family meetings in which treatment options, including palliation, are discussed.

Being sick and hospitalized can have a huge impact on the lives of our patients and families. They often struggle to find a way to process their experiences of the illness, diagnosis and treatment options. During my visit with them, I help them to process their feelings and articulate their values and beliefs so that the care we provide will be carried out in a way that is respectful of their wishes.

What else do you do?

The units that I work in can be quite intense and stressful for staff. It’s important that we acknowledge and take care of our stress. If left unattended, it can cause compassion fatigue and moral distress. The well-being of staff affects the quality of care to our patients, so I provide staff support through individual counselling and sessions in which staff have reflective time for their own self-care.

Any misconceptions you’ve come across about Spiritual Care?

Sometimes people think that spiritual care is a religious-based service. Spiritual Care at St. Michael’s is about spiritual – not necessarily religious – support and is provided by trained and certified spiritual care specialists. If a patient would like religious care, we have a broad range of resources to accommodate their needs.

Your days seem quite heavy. How do you decompress?

I go on annual silent retreats to recharge. This year, I spent a week in a monastery in the States. I also exercise regularly and play golf. A couple of years ago, I shot a 92. That made me pretty happy.

About St. Michael's Hospital

St. Michael’s Hospital provides compassionate care to all who enter its doors. The hospital also provides outstanding medical education to future health care professionals in 27 academic disciplines. Critical care and trauma, heart disease, neurosurgery, diabetes, cancer care, care of the homeless and global health are among the Hospital’s recognized areas of expertise. Through the Keenan Research Centre and the Li Ka Shing International Healthcare Education Centre, which make up the Li Ka Shing Knowledge Institute, research and education at St. Michael's Hospital are recognized and make an impact around the world. Founded in 1892, the hospital is fully affiliated with the University of Toronto.