Catholic Medical Quarterly Volume 72 (4) November 2022

Book review

It is not the healthy who need a doctor but the sick
By Fr Michael Stack

Reviewed by Teresa Lynch RGN.

Book CoverFr Michael Stack, a retired hospital chaplain, and current chaplain to the UK Association of Catholic Nurses, has written a collection of narratives about his work with hospital patients and their families, titled: “It is not the healthy who need a doctor but the sick” (Matthew 2:17).
 The book’s front cover image depicts St Vincent de Paul who is anointing a sick person in Paris. The artist, Neil Harvey titled his painting; ‘Last Rites’.

Fr Michael quotes some words of Julian of Norwich as a fitting tribute to all the vulnerable patients from varied medical specialties, encountered by him in his work:

“Any time we look at our maker with love, our importance in our own eyes, diminishes, and we are filled with awe and humility and love for others”.

He also quotes the message of Pope Francis for the Thirtieth World Day of the Sick in 2022 which summarises Fr Michael’s position as a hospital chaplain: “standing beside those who suffer on a path of charity”.

He sees the role of families as part of the care so required by the patient: “Bless the families who daily support those they love. Amen”.

Fr Michael supports his patients with their spiritual needs but notes that members of the healthcare team may also need compassionate care and support. His unique position as an independent member of the team can help in bridging a gap where staff support may be missing in this age of stress in healthcare.
The narratives include a personal account of Fr Michael’s own survival from having been three weeks in a coma due to COVID-19. His own painstaking rehabilitation and gratitude for all those involved with his recovery are moving to read.

Fr Michael’s support for patients, day, or night, reflects the holistic  philosophy of care. He provides for the spiritual needs of patients and their families at all stages of life, irrespective of their diagnosis or religious affiliation.

He concludes one patient story by emphasising for us the importance of non-verbal communication: “Listening to those who are sick is very important. We can give some answers but most times silence, yet just being there helps”.

This booklet is an invaluable tool for all health professionals whether Christians, Catholic, or not. It improves our understanding of the role of the chaplain as an important member of the healthcare team.