I have read several articles focusing on the importance of doctors talking with patients about their spiritual lives, preferences, and in some cases, spiritual distresses. This subject matter is not new to me. However, I once heard it said there are only two ways to get doctors to do anything, entice them with money or prestige or threaten them with litigation or loss of status. I am not sure what it is going to take to get doctors to talk to their patients about spiritual preferences or distress because I am not sure they feel it is their job and/or they feel it is important to do so.
The article points out that doctors need to be spiritually healthy themselves and ” be aware of their own beliefs and values.” I loved the quote offered, “the cow is sick, the medicine for the sick cow is sick, and the doctor who gives the sick medicine to the sick cow is sick.”
I appreciate the author’s observation that “people suffer as whole persons, not only in their physical and psychological dimensions but also as spiritual and social beings.” I have noticed that several of my patients who came in with possible cardiac issues had loss someone significant this past year so the observation of people dying from a broken heart has merit. The author admits that the FDA “has not approved any medications for indignity.”
There is much to be done in the area of caring for people as whole persons. I have started to attend collaborative rounds and that has encouraged people to think about the spiritual needs of their patients and ask themselves, “could this patient benefit from Spiritual Care.”
Yes, holistic health is important – and the spiritual piece is often overlooked. Partly because clarity around definitions, and what spiritual care is are so elastic. In one way that is the strength of what we do but can make it difficult for others to understand.