Whole-Patient Care

Several months ago, I blogged about the ongoing debates surrounding health care reform and the questions President Obama’s bill raised about the relationship between religion and medical care. Amidst all the debate on Capitol Hill, many individuals have spoken out through various media outlets , sharing their personal insights on the United States health care system. After watching and reading these stories, I have noticed that most of these individuals were left dissatisfied by their health care experience. Frankly, they wanted more, and wished that someone had paid attention to their whole self, beyond medical needs.

 Angelica Thieriot was one such individual, and her less-than-stellar experiences prompted her to found the non-profit Planetree in 1978. After undergoing an awful ordeal at a prominent teaching hospital in California, Thieriot decided to humanize the hospital experience. Plantree is now an international leader in helping hospitals promote patient-centered care. Their well-rounded model for care encourages family involvement in the system, and supports the use of arts, entertainment, and spirituality to heal the whole person. Today, more than 150 US hospitals have embraced Planetree, many of which outperform other hospitals on patient satisfaction measures.

Yet  Planetree isn’t the only organization attending to the mind, body, and soul of patients. After being diagnosed, cancer patients at Memorial Hospital & Health Care Center’s Lange-Fuhs Cancer Center in Jasper, Indiana are enrolled into the CompleteLife integrative medicine program. This program, spanning two-years, exposes patients to social work services, pastoral care, spiritual development, and art, music and massage therapy. Memorial Hospital’s Director of Medical Practice Management, Kelly Clauss, believes that the most unusual and fruitful aspect of the program is its involvement of the Sisters of St. Benedict of Ferdinand. She and other staff members believe that the partnership “empowers people to get in touch with their innermost selves.”

Here at Tanenbaum, we believe in patient-centered care. Not only is it important that health care providers ask their patients about their cultural and religious backgrounds, it is important that they use this knowledge pro-actively, making use of pastoral care resources. This is especially important in long-term care or rehabilitation facilities. Those patients who request these vital resources, regardless of their own beliefs, are able to access reservoirs of strength and comfort inside themselves, emerging from their health care experience with a positive outlook and attitude. The importance of creating a safe space for religion and spirituality in health care settings cannot be underestimated, as my blog of several weeks ago attests. The inspiring conclusion? More people are catching on to the fact!