Saturday, December 09, 2006

Should Healthcare Providers Inquire About Their Patients' Spirituality?

In the last post Dr. Koenig "suggested that health-care professionals at least take a spiritual history, asking whether the patient has religious or spiritual beliefs that give comfort during times of stress, or whether they are connected to a faith community. If appropriate, the patient might also be referred to pastoral care."

An article that appeared in the Journal of The American Medical Physician in 2001 recommended a tool to be used by healthcare providers to inquire about their patients' spirituality. Dr Puchalski at the George Washington University Institute of Spirituality and Health also encourages providers to take spiritual history from patients using the acronym FICCA. However, many healthcare providers are not comfortable with this idea as they think they may be intruding in the patients' privacy. When patients are ill, spirituality may calm them and help them cope. What do you think? Should healthcare providers take a spiritual history
from patients?

At my office I ask my patients whether they belong to any church or not. I had a Jewish patient who pointed out that she is Jewish and does not belong to a church, rather, she belongs to a synagogue. I have changed my questionnaire to reflect that suggestion. I must confess that most patients have had no problems with that. By broaching the church issue I get the opportunity to discuss spirituality with my patients when I find it necessary. Let me know your views about this issue.

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