Illness and other life-threatening circumstances most often lead people to ask and question the real meaning and ultimate purpose of life. This concern triggers the realization and understanding of the crucial role that religion, faith and spirituality play in quality health care.
The term spirituality expresses a very broad concept which is beyond its actual religious scope and encompasses several aspects of the innermost and private sphere of an individual. It refers to the attachment of religious beliefs and values that helps a person gain comprehension, understanding, knowledge, and acceptance of life. For most patients, it provides the basic foundation and support that allows them to move from being in the dark and shallow abyss to a level of substantial well-being and completeness.
Spiritual care is essential not just for the patient but also for the whole family and medical staff. It is also known as compassionate care which involves physical, emotional, social and spiritual interventions. It is innately a spiritual activity and journey. The word “compassion” means “to suffer with”. Compassionate care refers to clinicians and physicians who walk with sick people during their pain and become their partners.
True healing stems from other sources of inspiration and hope. There is always room for healing even if a cure is not possible for many illnesses. Healing can be expressed as complete acceptance of illness and coming to terms with the circumstances. Peace of mind can only be achieved if belief in healing is at its spiritual core.
Spirituality is an integral development task for those who are critically ill and are dying. They need someone to be with them and support them during the whole duration of transcendence. Family and medical staff must be close by during the spiritual process so as to comfort the sick patients and broaden their understanding of life at its ending.
Spiritual patients are encouraged to utilize their religious beliefs in coping with illness, pain, and stress. Studies revealed that those who are spiritual tend to have a more positive outlook in life and possess a better quality of life.
Since spirituality is broad, it is crucial to fully understand the different religious views that patients and families have. In-depth spiritual counseling should only be performed under the direct supervision of priests, pastors, chaplains, and other spiritual leaders since they are the expert in this field. A physician, clinician or carer should not initiate any religious rites or prayers with patients as this will ignite conflicting spiritual views and blurs the boundary between physician and spiritual leader. Performing any religious rites and prayers involve specific skills and expertise that physicians and medical staff do not have. Patients and families with different religious views might view this act as offensive and inappropriate and contradictory to their beliefs.
Physicians and the entire medical staff should always bear in mind that patients seek care and healing with regard to their medical condition. The families of these sick patients expect nothing but medical intervention and expertise on the part of the physicians and their respective teams. During the duration of delivering patient care, there should be a line or boundary that separates the spiritual dimension in the lives of the patients and their families. Physicians and carers can only listen and support but cannot guide or lead any spiritual activities.