Spirituality and Medical Practice
If it is true as reviewed in the article “Spirituality and Medical Preactice” published in the journal ”American Family Physician” January 1 2001 that “95 percent of the Americans believe in God” and that “94 percent of the patients admitted to hospitals believe that spiritual health is as important as physical health” and that “77 percent believe that physicians should consider their spiritual needs as part of their medical care” and that “37 percent want their physician to discuss their religious beliefs more” then there is a mismatch between patient desires and physician behavior when “80 percent of patients reported that physicians never or rarely discuss spiritual or religious issues with them.”
“Spirituality is a complex and multidimensional part of the human experience. It has cognitive, experiential and behavioral aspects. … Many people find spirituality through religion or through a personal relationship with the divine. However, others may find it through a connection with nature, though music and the arts, through a set of values and principles or through a quest for the scientific truth.” Whichever way they find it, it can brighten one’s life and provide an extra support during trying times. It also has been suggested that there might even be therapeutic value toward emotional or physical illness.
What is important, I think, is that the way patients may look at their physical illnesses is not necessarily the way physicians are taught to describe the pathophysiology and the clinical implication of the patient’s illness on the patient. Patients may have an entirely different way of looking at their sickness, why they are sick and what the effect the sickness will have on their life. This is especially true when patients are faced with a life ending illness. I think that when patients are considering factors that are “beyond their body” dealing with emotions, beliefs or religion, it is important that physician recognize these considerations as they evaluate the patient. This is done by communicating with the patient and gaining an understanding regarding to what extent spirituality is playing in their life and how it is being used. Medical school education programs are now stressing that the knowledge of patient’s spirituality and religious thoughts and feelings are as worthy considerations as the patient’s physical exam and laboratory findings. Perhaps in the future more physicians will do what many patients seem to desire, consider spirituality as part of medical care.
Do you have any thoughts about this? Has your physician ever asked you about your spirituality or religious beliefs? Do you think they should? ..Maurice.