Medical Residents Grasp Importance of Religion

June is a month of transition for teaching hospitals across the country. Recently graduated medical students begin a new chapter in their career – the first year of residency training. Thanks to a grant from the Edmond de Rothschild Foundations, Tanenbaum’s Health Care Program was excited to be a part of this transition for the incoming pediatric residents at Maria Fareri Children’s Hospital. 

We quickly discovered that there was great deal of diversity within this year’s residency class in terms of experience with cultural competence – both personally and professionally. 
 
One resident had worked closely with the Inuit community as a medical student in Canada, another resident was educated in St. George, Grenada and had been exposed to a number of diverse cultures and perspectives. Yet another resident worked nearby in Newark, NJ and saw a significant number of Jehovah’s Witness patients with Sickle Cell Anemia. However, the vast majority of the residents had minimal formal training in cultural competence – let alone religio-cultural competence – and many expressed the desire and need to gain additional knowledge and practical skills in how to interact with patients across different religions and cultures. 
 
Last year, our Health Care team delivered a full-day training to incoming residents on religio-cultural competence. The training covered why religion is important, where it comes up and how to effectively communicate with patients and their families about their religious beliefs. This year, we have been working with a group of physicians and other faculty at Maria Fareri that volunteered to take over the delivery of the training, the goal being that this project becomes institutionalized at MFCH. 
 
Last Friday, this group of seven faculty members delivered the training that Tanenbaum designed to a group of 17 incoming residents. The Tanenbaum Health Care team was there to observe and offer support. We’re happy to report that the training was very well received by residents and faculty alike. 
 
The full day training gave them the opportunity to begin to develop their skill sets in a safe environment where the advice and feedback of more experienced physicians was readily available. Activities for the day included case study review and discussion, role play activities to practice taking a spiritual history, as well as reflective exercises to help residents understand how their own “lens” and social identities impact how they view and interact with patients. 
 
Over the course of the year the residents will be exposed to additional materials that have been designed to be seamlessly integrated into existing curriculum. It was a pleasure meeting and working with the incoming pediatric residents and we’re looking forward to continuing to develop a comprehensive and sustainable training program that can be used as a model for residency programs nationwide. 
 
Lynn Stoller
Program Associate, Health Care