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Highlighting heroic caregivers on a new podcast run by Catholic ethicist Dr Dan Fleming

Broadcast enthusiast: Dr Dan Fleming podcasting from his spare room at home.

A new podcast series is telling compelling stories for caregivers on the COVID-19 frontline.

It’s being driven by Catholic ethicist Dr Dan Fleming, working from a spare room at home, connecting with staff that work at St Vincent’s hospitals and aged care facilities across Australia.

“Every day they do heroic and beautiful work in offering care – their stories are an embodiment of our mission in action.” Dr Fleming, group manager – Ethics and Formation with St Vincent’s Health Australia, said.

“St Vincent’s is full of amazing people… doctors, nurses, cleaners, kitchen staff, executives, pastoral carers.”

The idea for a podcast was planted before the coronavirus pandemic hit.

A broadcast enthusiast from an early age, Dr Fleming had planned a series that explored the mission of St Vincent’s health workers – however the project has taken on a powerful new significance.

“The equipment for our original podcast plan arrived in early March, just as the COVID-19 pandemic, and the wave of our lock-down measures, reached our shores,” Dr Fleming said.

“We had ordered two microphones, anticipating that the interviewer would be sitting down in the same room as the people they’d be interviewing.

“Obviously that couldn’t happen anymore. So we thought – why not repurpose our podcast equipment?

“Why not deliver an ongoing message of encouragement to our staff, with consoling words from people who love them, love St Vincent’s, and the love work we do?

“And why not make it available to the broader community, so they can get an insight into the heart of St Vincent’s at this time?”

“The technology allows us to record by phone, and uploading just needs an internet connection, so it could all be done remotely and without any risk to the safety of those taking part.

“And so, the spare room at my place in Melbourne became a makeshift recording studio, and we got underway.

“So far we’ve had Sisters of Charity, executives, the chair of our Reconciliation Action Plan, homeless health workers, infection control coordinators, nurses, and a couple of doctors on.”

It turns out that Dr Fleming is a strong podcaster.

He grew up in a family of radio enthusiasts – his father was a broadcast engineer and his mother a writer.

He spent his teenage years DJ-ing and is familiar with editing and producing.

“I’ve been astounded by the beauty and generosity of those who I’ve interviewed,” he said.

“Their contributions are just overflowing with compassion, courage and consolation.”

Dr Fleming says it is hard to pick a favourite podcast, but settles on a conversation with Sister of Charity Sr Maryanne Confoy, who serves as St Vincent’s Board advocate.

Sr Confoy’s final words still resonate in my ears: ‘it’s about love coming to life – and that’s what happens in our facilities every day’,” he said.

The podcast can be found by searching for “Compassion, Courage, Consolation” on any Podcast streaming app.

“Our reach is broad – we now have listeners all around Australia, in New Zealand, Europe, the UK, the USA and Canada,” Dr Fleming said.

“However the podcast is just a small initiative – part of the tapestry of our St Vincent’s community as it seeks to respond to the pandemic.

“We have a special focus on those who are poor and vulnerable, and that’s come to life in so many beautiful ways these last couple of months.

“Whether it’s in the emergency department, ICU, homeless health, care for those suffering addictions, care for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander patients, residents and staff, or support for mental health, our people have been leading the way – ensuring that no one is left behind.

“It really is a privilege to see it up close.”

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