MedSchoolMonday: Religion and Health

I’ve been pretty hard on the church lately and the church deserves it. It’s kind of like any relationship important to you with someone you love—they can bring out the extremes of your emotions. But this weekend was a good one. Dorothy’s aforementioned documents of our travels I agree with; piglet was a trooper and it was good to see family and church friends, old and new, old and young, from around the state. But all that’s boring to talk about, and my posts are usually way too long. I’m doing a lot of reading this summer on different perspectives on the relationship between health and religion, and there are tons of perspectives. There are a lot of folks that make a strong case that religion has an impact on health. We’re even taught in med school to ask about a person’s life of faith in our standard interview. Here are a couple of questions I’d like some responses to:

  1. In what ways have you ever had a medical provider bring up the subject of religion, if at all?
  2. Are you comfortable with a medical provider bringing the subject up? Why or why not?

8 Responses

  1. good questions. i haven’t personally nor have I heard of the providers I work with bring it up. but maybe b/c they never talked to an “administrator” about it. I am comfortable with it being brought up – but probably only in a more “tough decision” context than just during a regular check up. it might make me worry if the doc started talking too much religion as to what is wrong with me. esp given the 10 min time window!

  2. I will never forget the surgeon coming back in to pray with us before Jeff’s surgery.

  3. I have had several experiences of medical doctors bringing up the subject of faith. First, when I was about 16, my doctor prayed with me about something difficult I was going through. I will never forget it. Second, many of my grandmothers doctors prayed with her and it comforted all of us through her many cancers & surgeries.

    On the other side, out here in Texas the family docs I work with seem almost pushy and I have had several clients report feeling uncomfortable with their doctor because their beliefs differ. I work with a very vulnerable population and many times it verges on line of innapropriate. But some of my clients love it and feel their docs really care. I encourage those that dont, to request a change in PCP.

  4. When I was growing up, there was a volunteer nurse on site during every week of summer camp. Between morning devotionals and evening chapel, I probably received a few band-aids every now and then; maybe some tylenol or immodium (!).

    That the sort of thing you’re talking about? 😉

  5. When I went in for the initial visit for my pregnancy, they asked what religion I was. I thought it was strange that they asked but it didn’t bother me at all.

  6. first, let me commend the book anatomy of hope to you…it is written by an oncologist and in it he writes about the power of hope, which i know isn’t faith, but there are some overlaps

    second, haven’t had much conversion of the two spheres, but i do remember an occasion from my first year of seminary…i was in baton rouge for a surgery and before they wheeled me away some visitors (a clergy couple) circleld up with andy, my mom, and me to pray…they invited the nurses who were in the room to pray with us…the nurses, one male, one female, joined our circle and held our hands and somehow that made the moment all the more comforting to me

    third, i agree with the person who wrote that i would start to feel a little unnerved should my faith life be brought up during a routine exam…however, i think when people know what andy or i “do” the topic is less taboo for others…

    more than my two cents…

  7. Great comments, everyone (except a person whose name begins with L). That’s been my gut feeling, and experience as a patient or family of patient, that there are times where it may be appropriate to bring up but can quickly become offensive. Thanks for sharing!

  8. 1) We have 2 surgeons in our church who pray with their patients before every surgery. Thankfully, I have not been in a position to need that prayer, but have seen how others benefit from it. They often share that they believe there is a power beyond their own medical knowledge and ask if it the patient wants to share in the prayer. They both do this with the whole surgical team and only once has a patient declined to be included.

    When we were in Atlanta, Dr. Donelley regularly talked about faith with us prior to Sera’s birth. He was an outstanding pastor to us and when I think of what you are doing, I often think of him.

    2) I am a pretty liberal guy until I am in a hospital. Bring the snakes, the oils, the crosses, and whatever else makes you go. Take no chances.

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