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Do Patients Desire Inquiry Into Spritual and Religious Issues When Confronted With Severe Health Concerns: A Survey

1 August 2004


Context: Religious beliefs and practices are common in the United States. Many patients seeking health care are interested in including these important personal practices into their overall health care in an attempt to maintain well being. Religious beliefs and spirituality are areas health care providers tend to be timid about addressing and they are unsure as to whether it is their role to do so, even while many patients' religious beliefs are the sale factor they use to cope with their medical illness.

Objective: To investigate by survey a population of individuals, in regards to their desire for an integration of spirituality and religious acts into their health care, in the event they were confronted with unfortunate health circumstances.

Design: Subjects were approached in the individual settings and informed of the surveys purpose. They were then asked if they were over the age of 18 and if they were interested in completing the developed survey.

Setting: Subjects were selected randomly from three locations including: a private internal medicine practice in Hillsdale, Oregon, an Urgent Care in Forest Grove, Oregon, and a Family Practice medical clinic in North Plains, Oregon.

Subjects: All individuals seeking medical care from the above mentioned sites and who were interested in completing the survey during the investigative period were surveyed.

Results: A total of 83 of a possible 92 surveys were collected from the three sites. 32 Males and 50 Females completed the survey. Subject responses indicated a low level of provider awareness of their patients' religious/spiritual beliefs. 43% of the subjects desired health care provider inquiry into religious/spiritual beliefs when discussing severe health concerns. 55.5% of subjects were open to being offered a religious act (prayer, time of silence, meditation)by their health care provider when confronted with "bad news." Subject openness to a . religious act was not greatly affected by being of the same religion/spiritual belief or having different beliefs than their health care provider. 58% of subjects felt that self initiated prayer was acceptable in an office visit regarding "bad news." When gender and age were controlled, females and those over the age of fifty showed a greater desire for inquiry into religious and spiritual issues as well as a strong feeling that prayer was acceptable when self-initiated. It was found that regardless of gender or age, however, . the greater the level of religiosity of the subject, the greater the desire for health care provider inquiry into religious/spiritual beliefs.

Conclusions: Many but not all patients surveyed in three outpatient clinics in the Portland, OR metro area desire health care provider inquiry into spiritual and religious issues if confronted with severe health concerns, and are also open to their health care provider offering a religious act such as a time of silence, meditation or prayer given the same context. Self-initiated prayer by the patient was viewed as acceptable by the majority of subjects in the context of an office visit regarding "bad news." Medical providers would not be overstepping their boundaries by addressing religious/spiritual issues given the context of discussing unfortunate health circumstances with patients.


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