The Role of Spirituality in Modern Medicine

Released: 29-Apr-2011 9:00 AM EDT
Source Newsroom: Greenwich Hospital
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Hospital Staff Being Trained to Understand Today’s Eclectic Society

Newswise — People expect their medical needs to be satisfied when in the hospital, but how about their spiritual, emotional and cultural needs? These are also important to the healing process and, at Greenwich Hospital, it’s the spiritual care chaplains who make sure doctors understand how to address these patient needs.

Every other week, Greenwich Hospital’s Director of Spiritual Care Eddie Lopez makes spirituality-in-medicine rounds with interns and residents. He helps physicians develop their sensitivity toward patients in today’s multicultural, eclectic society.

“Every hospital resident, intern and medical student who interacts with patients needs to learn to put aside their personal ‘baggage’ based on their own life experiences,” says Lopez. It’s the same “active listening training” taught in the hospital’s continuing education course for seminarians and clergy, and it has nothing to do with religion.

Unlike most hospitals, Greenwich Hospital spiritual care chaplains are clinically trained and board-certified, and therefore are a part of the interdisciplinary team of clinicians that holistically addresses the bio-psycho-social and spiritual needs of each patient. Of course, the hospital offers the sacrament of the sick and communion to its patients who want it. And yet, as examples, the hospital will provide a different type of spiritual support for a non-religious cancer patient who decides to terminate chemotherapy, or to a group of addiction recovery patients who need to explore the emotional and cultural influences on their addiction.

Moral questions might have particular religious implications or philosophically ethical aspects to it, but it’s not the same for every person. When a chronic or acute illness cannot be reversed, the spiritual care team helps the family explore their palliative care options.

“This is one thing that makes Greenwich Hospital a unique place,” says Lopez. “We try to visit every patient, whether they are in the hospital with late stage cancer or a fractured ankle, and it all comes down to one thing – ‘Why?’ What meaning do you give this experience? What is your fear? What do you need to help you cope through this illness? This is what we help people explore as we help them heal their emotional wounds,” Lopez added.

About Greenwich Hospital
Greenwich Hospital is a 174-bed community hospital serving lower Fairfield County, Ct., and Westchester County, N.Y. It is a major academic affiliate of Yale New Haven School of Medicine and a member of the Yale New Haven Health System. Since opening in 1903, Greenwich Hospital has evolved into a progressive medical center and teaching institution representing all medical specialties and offering a wide range of medical, surgical, diagnostic and wellness programs.


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