Healthcare workers face tremendous pressures every day, but with the coronavirus pandemic sweeping the world, a new appreciation for their difficult and life-saving work has taken hold both here in Israel and around the globe.
This is nothing new to Philippe Seguin, a registered nurse who worked in the healthcare field for 35 years in Israel and has been for years calling healthcare personnel the “frontline workers” in the battle for life — every day, and more so during a pandemic.
“It is a position that demands a lot, spiritually speaking too,” he explained. “Most of them are facing the enemy — sickness, depression, they face all of what medical disease has to give — and these are the works of the enemy.”
Seguin, founder of Healthcare Believers Fellowship, worked for 25 years at Alyn Hospital, a rehabilitation center for children with disabilities, but it was when he worked at Shaare Tzedek — one of Jerusalem’s central hospitals — that he understood the frenzied atmosphere that characterizes much of the healthcare industry.
“It was there I learned the crazy atmosphere of shift work at a hospital,” Seguin told Kehila News. “You go through whole shifts where you can’t eat, you can’t drink, you can’t go to the bathroom, you can’t do anything essential to yourself.”
What struck him even more so was the crisis of faith that plagues believers in the field — caring for people with terrible diseases, victims of terror attacks and even watching patients who died on their shifts. Many become so overwhelmed by the nature of their work that they question their faith.
“I started to bear this burden and pray for the believers working in healthcare,” he said. “That’s when I got the vision for the fellowship. People were upset with God because of the difficulty they faced in their work.
After bearing this calling for more than three years, it was while he was speaking at a healthcare workers’ conference in Nepal in 2010, Seguin knew that time had come to begin a network in Israel for believers in healthcare.
“The vision was to bring together all the believers who have something to do with healthcare, so even a cleaner who is working in a nursing home, for example,” Seguin said. “I want to reach everyone to encourage to give them the tools to serve the Lord in your workplace.”
He formed the Healthcare Believers Fellowship in 2011 and, since then, Seguin has been in contact with some 420 believing healthcare workers around the country and knows of another 300 in the field. The fellowship is comprised of Jewish Messianic believers, Arab Christians, Evangelicals and Catholics.
“I want to serve everyone that the Lord puts in my path,” he said.
Though Seguin has been developing the Healthcare Believers Fellowship for years, he only recently started working full time on this endeavor — and the timing couldn’t have been more propitious with the coronavirus. During the crisis, Seguin’s work has increased exponentially. The HBF holds meetings (these days via Zoom) with healthcare believers around the country to encourage and support them and Seguin is also in contact with different HBF members everyday.
“I am praying in the morning and asking God who I should reach out to today,” he said.
“We have many doctors and nurses that are working in the corona units in hospitals around the country,” Seguin said. “It is very difficult to work, they contact me, facing dilemmas. Fear is suddenly catching them. One nurse, all her protective garb was torn while working with a patient and she became very fearful and anxious. She called and said, ‘Pray for me.’”
While many doctors and nurses working in the high-pressure environment of the coronavirus wards, ironically, several others in the network have found themselves sitting at home during the crisis as hospitals have shuttered “nonessential” departments.
“On the other side there are many hospitals that have closed their wards, many are even unemployed. So these people are home, unemployed and they are worried so that is another thing that is happening.”
Even now with social distancing being implemented at hospitals, staff has been reduced along with beds per room.
During normal times, HBF serves as a spiritual support for believing healthcare workers, holds group meetings, runs a course on how to share one’s faith in your workplace and connects believers, some of whom had no idea some of their coworkers were also believers.
Though the outbreak of COVID-19 has pushed the integral work of medical staff to the forefront, Seguin exhorts that congregations should be aware of their needs and challenges all the time.
“It is important for the Body of Messiah to be aware, not only during the corona virus but always,” Seguin said.