Church in Cologne trains companions to visit the sick in the hospital


Central Europe


A nurse taking care of a Covid patient. Photo ANP, Remko de Waal

The Archdiocese of Cologne has appointed special healthcare workers who must assist hospital chaplains in their work.

Recently, twelve so-called companions have finished their training, which is part of a pilot project of the Archdiocese of Cologne. The healthcare workers are now ready to comfort the sick and offer spiritual support in the hospital where they work. Sabine Brüninghaus, ethics officer for healthcare professions in the Archdiocese of Cologne, says in an interview with Domradio that these companions have the task to support people by asking what they need, and what the source of their strength is. “They are there for existential offers of conversation”, she clarifies.

The companions work alongside the already existing hospital chaplains. The difference is that the companions are just regular hospital employees who get between three and ten hours a week to provide spiritual care. This works especially well because sometimes patients have spiritual questions at random moments when the chaplain is not always present.

Spiritual care

One of the qualified companions is the intensive care nurse Christian Hirt. He says that as a companion, he can take the time to actively listen to his patients, “appreciate them and really be there; not only for the patients but also for the staff.”

Every week, the team of companions reviews a list of patients who requested spiritual care, Hirt says. He visits these people when he has a gap in his schedule. Hirt dedicates three hours a week to his work as a companion. In the other shifts, he works as an intensive care nurse, just like he has done up till now.

Second round

According to ethics officer Brüninghaus, the second round of the training has already started. There are currently seven people participating in the program.



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