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Health providers in metropolitan areas usually have most of their patients being from different faiths. For instance, Buddhist, Bahai and Sikh patients like Christianity seek conventional treatments to complement some practices in their faith such as prayer, meditation and devotion. In most instances as regards the perspective to healing and health care provision, Buddhist, Sikhs and Bahai, just as Christians, have a place for modern medicine and clinical practices as a complimenting solution to spiritual intervention in times of ill health. But as this essay will establish, patients rarely mind when they seek care from providers with different religious inclinations for as long as those providers place the patient’s interest at the fore. Health care professionalism demands that providers allow patients to draw from their own religious practices and to be sensitive to such requirements of individual patients.
Health care providers in modern times and at all levels of the practice of come into contact with patients with diverse backgrounds and a variety of faiths. From the outset, a healthcare cannot afford to be reckless with a patient’s belief system since that would directly impact on the outcome of the care provided. Again, a healthcare provider must be willing to approach patients from a universal point of view, a view in which there exists no malice towards any religious inclination. Modern healthcare provision calls for an unqualified acceptance of the diversity of cultural and faith expressions not just among the patients but even among the providers themselves since increasingly, patients are finding themselves in facilities whose founding principles and practicing personnel ascribe to different faiths than themselves.
In the aforementioned conviction, healthcare providers must necessarily have a perfect understanding, acceptance and appreciation of the diverse belief systems and religious preferences that their patients ascribe to, most of which will vary from their own. This is the only that such providers can ultimately provide optimal care needed by their diverse clientele. This affects physicians and nurses as well as chaplains who are associated with hospitals, care facilities and hospices, especially those in metropolitan areas and frequented by diverse range of patients. Again, the same is applies for all medical conditions mild, acute, chronic or terminal, across genders, ages and races globally.
This essay endeavors to compare the belief systems of Buddhism, Sikh and Baha’i religions, their spiritual perception on healing, medical practicing and components of their healing practices. The essay then compares these perspectives with the dominant Christian philosophy of faith and healing. The study is based on interviews of three patients with differing faiths, the essence here being to establish patients require when cared for by providers with differing faith convictions and how they fare with those providers who attain the universal perspective of faiths as elaborated hereabove.
Differing Spiritual Perspectives on Healing
a) Diverse and Yet Similar Perspectives
Buddhism as a faith and community was founded by Siddhartha Gautama who lived between 563 and 483 B.C.E (Tanaka, 1999). Siddhartha began a spiritual journey by questioning human suffering accruing from sickness aging and death of a human being. Buddhists reflect a belief of the interdependence of the world (Tanaka, 1999). Their medical theory conceptualises the mind and the body as a single unit. As such, illness of one’s body negatively impacts on one’s mental health. Mental illness on its part also directly affects the physical well-being (Tanaka, 1999). Buddhism patients are open to treatment that seeks to eliminate sickness from the body and very receptive to care givers. They are open to conventional and or alternative forms of treatment, although personal preference of a particular patient must be consulted by the care giver (Tanaka, 1999).
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The same perspective is shared by Bahai followers who were mandated by their founder, Baha’u’llah, to consult competent physicians and care givers during sickness (McMullen, 2000). As shall be elaborated in the next section, some of the components of healing in Bahai in times of ill-health include Divine Revelation which must simultaneously be sought for hand-in-hand with the intervention of modern science (McMullen, 2000). An example of two passages taken from Abdu’l-Baha writings illustrate this, ‘thou hast two powers, one of physical healing, the other of spiritual healing. Therefore, treat the sick with both of these powers’ (McMullen, 2000). Further, the writings note, ‘Accept physical remedies since they come from the favour of God, Who revealed medical science so that His people may profit from this treatment also’ (McMullen, 2000).
During sickness and long term diseases, Sikhs pray to seek God's help and ask for forgiveness for any errors that might have triggered the malady (Metropolitan Chicago Healthcare Council, 2001). They do this by reciting and listening to Gurbani and other sacred hymns (Metropolitan Chicago Healthcare Council, 2001). Sikhs believe in seeking for physical remedies from medical practitioners simultaneously with spiritual nourishment. This is why most Sikh patients will request to have audiotapes of the sacred music, Keertan at their bedside during treatment (Metropolitan Chicago Healthcare Council, 2001). Uniquely, Sikh may regard illnesses to result from the will of God in his mercifulness and benevolence. To cure such illnesses, seeking forgiveness must be accompanied by search for medical treatment (Metropolitan Chicago Healthcare Council, 2001).
b) Components of Healing for Different Faiths
All these three faiths can be compared to the Christian view where an individual is responsible for his or her own health. Secondly, like in the three faiths above, Christians and God provides healing through either miraculous happenings or by enabling health care providers to have the wisdom to treat effectively and their drugs to work. The three faiths above excluding Christianity have prayers, devotion and meditation being the components that work alongside medical attention during the healing process.
Buddhists, Sikhs and Bahai believe in meditation being a core component in healing since it triggers the body to naturally boost immunity against the disease causing pathogen (McMullen, 2000). Christianity lacks the component of healing but still places prayer and devotion at an important place during the healing process.
c) What Patients Value in Care Givers with Different Faiths
Interestingly, patients with a Christian, Bahai and Buddhism faith have no problem with health care providers from other faiths as long as they give them room to include their religious components of faith into the healing process (Tanaka, 1999). Sikhs alone display a preference for ‘Guru Nanak’ branded health care facilities where most of the providers ascribe to their faith. This is because their faith puts a lot of privacy on some matters such as sexuality and items of clothing (which have distinct religious meanings) (Metropolitan Chicago Healthcare Council, 2001). In this believe, they prefer those providers who would respect and are conversant with that element of their healthcare needs. Nonetheless, in the event that the care givers are of different faiths, Sikhs are among the most tolerant group of people in the world (Metropolitan Chicago Healthcare Council, 2001). They will accept treatment from professionals whose care they need. This introduces another important area for the essay (Metropolitan Chicago Healthcare Council, 2001).
The Bahai and Buddhist faithful on their part will only require the health care providers to give them space to include their religious components into eth healing process while also providing the care givers ample opportunity to practice their professional skill.
d) The Importance of Putting the Patient’s Faith First
It is proper practice in healthcare provision where the faith of the patient and that of the provider differs, to let the interests of the patients to dominate (Metropolitan Chicago Healthcare Council, 2001). Healthcare providers ought to and are mandated to let the interests of their patients take precedence during the provision of care. Patients especially appreciate when they see that their care providers are willing to forego their religions inclinations and to help the patient seek spiritual nourishments from their faiths (McMullen, 2000).
While most faiths appreciate when their care givers and providers can put aside their own faiths and beliefs while treating a patient with differing faiths, Christians are the most flexible in seeking treatment from facilities and providers with differing faiths. They appreciate if the health providers can step out of their religious inclinations and be professionals in offering treatment, so that the patient himself or herself can seek nourishment from within their faiths.
This enquiry helps illuminate some fundamentals in healthcare provision. To begin with, the world is getting more and more diverse in faiths and it is no longer possible for a place to feature a singular faith (McMullen, 2000). Health providers in metropolitan areas will have most of their patients being from different faiths. But as this essay has established, patients rarely mind when they seek care from providers with different religious inclination for as long as those providers place the patient’s interest at the fore.
The Buddhist, Bahai and Sikh patients like most religions seek conventional treatments to complement some practices in their faith such as meditation and devotion. Health care providers must thus not only allow patients to draw from such practices but must also be sensitive to such requirements.
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