Tuesday, December 13, 2011

On a wing and a....

When one thinks of a health care "team," one envisions doctors, nurses, and pharmacists. But how about adding one more: the Preacher (or Priest, or Rabbi)?

"Chaplains are seeking bigger roles in hospitals and in some cases joining the medical-care team, as new research shows positive spiritual guidance and discussion can help improve a patient's medical outcome."

This is, perhaps, a bit trickier than it may seem: there's a difference between religion and faith. And of course it's not so easy to quantify a chaplain's efficacy compared to, say, the surgeon's. Still, the concept is intriguing, and gaining momentum:

"Medical schools are adding courses on spirituality and health, and training residents to consider patients' spiritual needs."

Nothing prevents one from praying in pre-op, with or without the aide of a trained professional. And there's some evidence of linkage between physical and spiritual well-being:

"Studies indicate as many as 40% of patients with serious illnesses like cancer struggle with spiritual concerns, which can harm emotional and physical well-being"

Evidence of this is, by definition, somewhat anecdotal, but that doesn't make it any less valid. And there's some objective evidence that spiritual and physical well-being are connected:

"Studies indicate that chaplain visits can result in less patient anxiety, shorter hospital stays and higher satisfaction."

As the article notes, these are not definitive, but they're certainly worth exploring. Like chicken soup, what's the harm?
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