Physicians and Faith ... Does it Matter?

Brain, Belly and Bladder Check… and a little prayer!

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“Dear God, let me be the doctor this patient needs this day.”

Before I enter a patient’s room, I do a quick self-check: brain clear and open? Belly full enough? Bladder empty enough? Then the prayer.

It helps me stay grounded and be present for that patient at that time so I can give her the best care medicine can offer.

My faith prevents burn out through the difficult days of heavy patient loads, frequent disruptive phone calls and patient-upsetting insurance requirements.

The patient’s faith, their trust in my concern for each one of them as an individual, in my willingness to work tirelessly to diagnose and treat properly,  in my ability to put them first during our time together, and in my commitment to medical excellence, is critical to their health care. The stronger their faith in me, the more likely they are to follow the regimen I prescribe once they discharge.

Over the years, I’ve learned one of the best ways to establish their faith quickly is to identify my goals for my patient’s hospitalization. Making the best choices to cover all aspects of their medical care: physically, emotionally, mentally, spiritually and financially.

When I acknowledge all aspects of their life that are important to them, they are more likely to share their concerns and divulge information they may not have shared freely previously.

Family involvement allows for the support network to be involved. Their faith, in me, in God or whatever entity they choose, and in each other builds the bridge to better health.

Whilst preparing for an expected death, faith becomes actively discussed in non-Christian facilities. Whenever possible, the patient’s preferences have been clearly delineated, the family comes together in some (sometimes unholy) truce and, in most cases, acceptance and peace come forth in this difficult time.

Though a physician may not reveal the heartbreak of a patient’s death, I have yet to meet one that isn’t challenged with the loss surrounding death. Even if it’s not a medical failure if there was nothing else that should or could have been done, the sense of inadequacy can make us challenge what we know and why we do what we do. In the end, faith, family, and friends get us through.

So, faith is important on both sides. Whether it’s God, the doctor/patient relationship, or (preferably) a combination, both the patient and the physician must have faith for the best overall outcome on any given day, in any given encounter.

When I was pregnant, I asked friends for advice. One of the best suggestions? “When you go into labor, say a prayer for your maternity nurse. The instant you deliver, she becomes your baby’s nurse. You want her to be having a blessed day.”

Say a prayer for your doctor. Have faith. It matters.


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Gail, a physician for over 25 years, typically worked in a Catholic hospital. The change to a non-faith based facility was surprisingly jarring, but her faith and method to square herself away on the threshold of each patient's room persisted. Faith, family and friends, and working out regularly prevent the burnout running rampant through Gen X physicians.

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