Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Family Medicine: Spiritual Sensitivity Enhanced in Training

In the context of the patient-physician relationship, a variety of roles for each person in the dyad are manifested.    Each seeks information and clarification over time in the context of the relationship.  Beyond the usual elements of health and wellness are the spiritual explorations that patient and physician undertake.  Both think of the usual medical phenomena, but sometimes the thoughts and comments reflect on the more spiritual aspects of life and the hereafter.   How does the Family Physician respond to this aspect of practice?  How do they learn to allow this discussion to happen?

Many persons in the medical world don't know that Family Physicians all are exposed to behavioral skills training by Family Physician and Behavioral Science faculty in their Family Medicine Residency Training Program.  Clinical encounters are reviewed by those faculty with the resident Family Physician to enhance their ability to integrate physical, intellectual, emotional and spiritual aspects of the patient's life into the discussions and decisions.  Gaining insight into the importance of the entire context of the patient's life and belief system enables the Family Physician to have a broader response repertoire to patient concerns throughout their career.    

The teaching and training about multiple cultures and belief systems in Family Medicine Training Programs enable the residency graduates to adjust to a wide variety of individual, family and community cultures.  Birth, death, loss and grief are daily subjects in patient clinical encounters about conditions and disease processes in all organ systems.  The spiritual issues that patients share with their Family Physician are seldom a surprise to the doctor.  The integration of the behavioral sciences with the biological and clinical sciences contribute to the spiritual sensitivity.

"Family medicine is the medical specialty which provides continuing, comprehensive health care for the individual and family. It is a specialty in breadth that integrates the biological, clinical and behavioral sciences. The scope of family medicine encompasses all ages, both sexes, each organ system and every disease entity."....AAFP definition.

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