The Role of Spirituality in Health Care.

The Role of Spirituality in Health Care.

The technological advances of the past century tended to change the focus of medicine from a caring, service-oriented model to a technological, cure-oriented model. Technology has led to phenomenal advances in medicine and has given us the ability to prolong life. However, in the past few decades physicians have attempted to balance their care by reclaiming medicine’s more spiritual roots, recognizing that until modern times spirituality was often linked with health care. Spiritual or compassionate care involves serving the whole person–the physical, emotional, social, and spiritual. Such service is inherently a spiritual activity. Rachel Naomi Remen, MD, who has developed Commonweal retreats for people with cancer, described it well: Serving patients may involve spending time with them, holding their hands, and talking about what is important to them. Patients value these experiences with their physicians. In this article, I discuss elements of compassionate care, review some research on the role of spirituality in health care, highlight advantages of understanding patients’ spirituality, explain ways to practice spiritual care, and summarize some national efforts to incorporate spirituality into medicine.

The Role of Spirituality in Health Care.

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