Assignment: Faith and Health Poll
Different studies suggest that 60% to 90% of all patient visits to primary care offices are related to stress. I teach the relaxation response to many of my patients, and I have found it particularly useful for patients with chronic pain, high blood pressure, headaches, and irritable bowel syndrome. It takes only a few minutes to describe the meditation and to practice it with your patient in the office. The patient then needs to practice the technique at home. I usually suggest people follow up with me in the office more frequently initially as they are learning the technique. After a few semimonthly visits, they switch to brief monthly visits, which can then be tapered. Some of my patients follow up with me by phone if coming to my office frequently is difficult.
ADVANTAGES OF BECOMING FAMILIAR WITH PATIENTS’ SPIRITUALITY
Do patients want physicians to address their spirituality? Research studies have also addressed this issue. In the USA Weekend Faith and Health Poll, 65% felt that it was good for doctors to speak with them about their spiritual beliefs, yet only 10% said a doctor had had such a conversation with them (23). A study of pulmonary outpatients at the University of Pennsylvania found that 66% agreed that a physician’s inquiry about spiritual beliefs would strengthen their trust in their physician; 94% of patients for whom spirituality was important wanted their physicians to address their spiritual beliefs and be sensitive to their values framework. Even 50% of those for whom spirituality was not important felt that doctors should at least inquire about spiritual beliefs in cases of serious illness (24).
From a physician’s standpoint, understanding patients’ spirituality is quite valuable as well:
· Spirituality may be a dynamic in the patient’s understanding of the disease. For example, when I was a resident I saw a 28 year-old woman whose husband had just left her. She found out that her husband had AIDS, and she asked to be tested.
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