Faith in medicine
Augusta, Georgia, United States
Photo by Sven Piper on Unsplash.
When I was in college, I worked for a nursing unit in the trauma ward. One patient had been in a horrible car accident and barely survived. I visited her for the better part of two weeks before she began to improve. One afternoon, as I was passing by her room, she called me in and asked if I would pray with her. I never push my own faith onto others, but I also do not shy away from sharing it when asked. It was the first time a patient had directly called on my faith, and I was not even sure if I was allowed to pray openly with her. I did anyway, because at the moment it was what she needed. Since that day, I have been asked countless times by patients of various faiths to pray with them. It has made me wonder: what is the role of faith in medicine?
We spend our whole lives in medicine caring for the body, but a person is more than their physical ailments. The basis of holistic medicine is to care for the entire human, system by system, in mind, body, and spirit. A patient’s faith could be key to their treatment. Mood plays a large role in recovery and healing, so we do our best to keep patients in the best emotional states we can. Helping a patient engage with their faith more powerfully could help propel them through treatments and therapies, lighten their stress, and provide hope in dark times. It would be intrusive to prod patients about faith, but if someone offers that information willingly, it could be worthwhile to incorporate faithful avenues into their treatment plan.
But should providers feel compelled to talk with patients about faith? What if the patient is of a different faith than the provider? I am comfortable engaging in religious acts outside of my faith for the sake of a patient, especially when I know how much peace that provides. However, it is just as unfair to pressure providers into offering religious or spiritual aid as it would be to assume a patient is comfortable speaking on behalf of their own faith. This whole idea only works when a patient is independently willing to share, and their provider is also willing to take part.
Maybe because I live in , I have noticed many hospitals offering some sort of spiritual guidance on staff. However, it is mostly Christian in practice: a chaplain, a room for church services and prayer, a Bible in patients’ rooms. Those of the Christian faith have avenues to connect and feel supported, but these opportunities are not as common for people of different faiths. If a patient wishes to connect with their faith during their hospital stay, there should be an avenue to do so.
What you believe drives the way you act and feel. It certainly affects the way you approach bad news, pain, and perseverance. Patients, if you feel comfortable sharing your faith during your stay, do not be afraid to do so. You may find more support than you would have realized. Healthcare workers, if you feel comfortable when prompted, talk about faith with your patients. It will strengthen your bond and make their stay more peaceful.
TYLER BEAUCHAMP is a fourth-year medical student at the Medical College of Georgia pursuing the field of pediatrics. Tyler completed his bachelor’s degree in chemistry at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 2019. He is the author of Freeze Frame, a #1 best-seller in Coming-of-Age Fiction and Medical Fiction. Tyler aspires to continue his work in pediatrics in either critical care or heme/oncology while also maintaining his writing career as a children’s and young adult author.