Training Doctors to Heed Patients' Spiritual Histories ; in Medical Schools, More Future Physicians Learn of Link Between

By Susan Llewelyn Leach, writer of The Christian Science Monitor | The Christian Science Monitor, December 16, 1999 | Go to article overview
Save to active project

Training Doctors to Heed Patients' Spiritual Histories ; in Medical Schools, More Future Physicians Learn of Link Between


Susan Llewelyn Leach, writer of The Christian Science Monitor, The Christian Science Monitor


Physician Dale Matthews still remembers the woman who came to his office, complaining of shortness of breath. What he most recalls, though, is how taken aback he was by his patient's response after he diagnosed a serious heart problem.

"She looked me square in the eyes," he recounted, "and, holding her prayer book, she said, 'I'm not going to go to the hospital. I have to go home and pray.' "

Nothing in his medical-school training had prepared him for that moment, says Dr. Matthews, who teaches at the Georgetown University School of Medicine in Washington. Two weeks later, he reported, the woman returned to his office, healed.

Today, medical students are more likely to receive training on gathering patients' spiritual histories - a trend that has evolved in tandem with the growing body of clinical research linking patients' spiritual beliefs to physical health.

Preparing doctors to deal with the spiritual histories of their patients and to recognize faith as part of the healing process is still a fairly new development. But over the past five years, these ideas have become more integrated into medical-school training, says Christina Puchalski, director of clinical research at George Washington University, who has developed guidelines for doctors to use in discussing spiritual issues with patients.

Of 125 accredited medical schools, 61 offer a course on spirituality in medicine - and as many as 40 of those introduce future doctors to Dr. Puchalski's guidelines, known as FICA.

Still, there can be a reluctance to address spiritual concerns, Puchalski says. This stems in large part from lack of time and training, and doctors' uncertainty about how to identify patients with spiritual needs.

FICA, which stands for Faith, Influence, Community, and Address, is a formula doctors can use to ensure that patients' spiritual histories become part of their medical records. Using it, doctors will ask questions such as: Does religious faith or spirituality play an important role in your life? How does your religious faith or spirituality influence the way you think about your health or the way you care for yourself? Are you part of a religious or spiritual community?

"I knew I would have to come up with some sort of tool to make it easy for them [to do a spiritual assessment]," Puchalski says.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
Loading One moment ...
Project items
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited article

Training Doctors to Heed Patients' Spiritual Histories ; in Medical Schools, More Future Physicians Learn of Link Between
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

While we understand printed pages are helpful to our users, this limitation is necessary to help protect our publishers' copyrighted material and prevent its unlawful distribution. We are sorry for any inconvenience.
Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.

Are you sure you want to delete this highlight?