Imam Rizwan Rawat brings a big smile and plenty of enthusiasm to his new job as the new head of the chaplaincy service at the hospital trust responsible for Northwick Park in Harrow.
Rizwan, who goes by the name Riz, serves as the inaugural Imam in his position. However, he mentions that he and his fellow chaplains frequently set aside religious discussions when engaging with patients and staff in their daily interactions.
“I prefer the term ‘spiritual care team’ but that is a work in progress,” laughs the father of two who joined the trust a week ago.
“We are here to listen and talk with people about whatever is troubling them. We don’t pretend to be psychologists but just getting people to talk about what is on their mind can help.
“What goes on inside us is as important as what goes on outside us and being in hospital often gives people to reflect on their lives.
Riz acknowledges that there are similarities to his past role as a chaplain at HMP Belmarsh when it comes to spiritual crises triggered by isolation and illness.
He readily concedes that the service, which has just three full-time chaplains, faces several common misconceptions about their responsibilities.
“Here comes the god squad is a common one but I can assure people religious
recruitment is not on the agenda. I do think the service labours under that image
along with the belief that we are all about crisis and death.
“We are also here to celebrate the positives, such as the birth of a child or recovery from serious illness so my message to staff is tell us about it!”
So, what else is on the lectern? “I’ve got lots of ideas but it starts with people knowing I that am there if they need me. Please say hello if you see me and just call me Riz."