Doctors-to-be get a dose of spiritual healing
Medical students learn new focus
April 11, 1997
Web posted at: 10:25 p.m. EDT (0225 GMT)
From Correspondent Al Hinman
MAYWOOD, Illinois (CNN) -- Evidence is growing that religious
faith or spirituality can play a major role in the healing
As researchers study how faith works, and why, at least one
medical school is training future doctors to understand it
and put it to use in their work.
Every first-year medical student at Loyola University Medical
Center in Chicago must make hospital rounds with a pastoral
care-mentor to learn to listen to patients' needs.
The premise is that a patient's physical health depends
largely on his or her spiritual health.
The idea, said Marie Coglianese, Loyola's director of
pastoral care, is "to help patients focus on some of the
faith, some of the beliefs and values that helped get them
through this hospitalization that's been very difficult and
Hospital chaplain Maureen Fuechtmann added, "Illness befalls
the person. Not just bodies, but the whole person. And that
person has a whole set of belief systems and values, and the
spirit is wounded."
Doctors learn to focus on patient's 'story'
Backed by those in charge of this Jesuit-affiliated medical
center, Fuechtmann believes chaplains and other spiritual
counselors should not have a monopoly on pastoral care. Hence
the training for medical students.
"We speak very explicitly to the students that whatever your
faith, tradition or lack of it, to be a good physician you
must focus on your patients and whatever their story is, and
whatever their needs are," she said.
What these future doctors are learning is already standard
practice for many physicians who recognize the power that
faith -- or even just a positive attitude -- can have. Prayer
and belief have worked at times when even the best medicine
But there are fears that the mounting pressures of managed
care will cut short the time doctors can spend listening to
"The fear," said Dr. Sidney Wiessman of the medical center,
"is that they will abandon interest in the psyche and the
soul, and will only be focused on the technical elements."
Perhaps, but the hope at this medical school is that lessons
being taught to the future doctors it trains are ones that
will never be forgotten.
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