"Medicine, as all
true doctors admit, is not an exact science. We need not invoke the
supernatural to explain the falsiﬁcation of its prophecies. You need not,
unless you choose, believe in a causal connection between the prayers and the
recovery." -C.S. Lewis
During our psych unit of didactic year, we learned
about various models of abnormal behavior. The consensus model modern
psychology has chosen is the biopsychosocial spiritual model of medicine which I
have learned should be integrated into every patient encounter. I have found
that in my encounters with patients, part of being culturally aware is also
being spiritually sensitive and aware of each patient's needs and beliefs.
Spiritual sensitivity is not an area that was
addressed during my training but as I proceed with hands-on experience, I have
found it useful assets in ensuring patients know that even as a student I care
deeply for all aspects of their well-being.
I was privileged to have my surgery rotation at a
small hospital in rural North Carolina in what is known as the "Bible belt." I immediately
noticed at the hospital a sense of cultural Christianity particularly with my
attending surgeons. From Gideon Bibles in the room to a giant poster in the OR (pictured), to volunteers playing hymns on the lobby piano, there was a sense that
both the patients and providers had faith in a higher power.
My own personal beliefs about Jesus Christ became an
asset in this environment. I would listen closely to patients' dialogue and
inferences to church or God and occasionally ask if patients wanted me to pray
for them or with them.
In one instance, my two surgeons were approaching
the procedure with trepidation. The
patient had a complex past medical history with long hospital stays
post-operatively. Multiple times they said, "We might kill her this time." Her
past GI surgeries had lasted over 12 hours, involved multiple blood transfusions
and complicated recoveries.
I met this patient pre-op in the office and observed
her frequent references to God, her church and her faith. I told her that I
would be praying for her and asked if I could request my friends do the same. She
said that would be wonderful. I then asked if I could pray out loud for her
right there which she agreed to as well.
The morning of her surgery I was rounding and came
into the room. I got my report and as I was about to walk out of the room, she
stopped me, "Well aren't you going to pray for me now?" Of course I did.
Regardless of your beliefs of the role of the divine
in medicine, something was different about that operation. It lasted less than
3 hours, she had no complications and her hospital stay was just under one
I think unfortunately in our medical training,
spirituality is downplayed or ignored to avoid conflict, but there is a tactful
way to heed to spiritual concerns if you remain open-minded. Of course I am
more comfortable with those with Christian backgrounds, but I have also prayed
with Muslim and Hindu patients with their permission.
Here in the U.S.,
individuals of diverse faiths will appreciate your concern for their spiritual
health. Comments and anecdotes from experienced practitioners are much