Health Care Provider and Faith Diversity

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Health Care Provider and Faith Diversity

Practicing healthcare in the United States brings providers into contact with people of a variety of faiths. For the provider to be able to give quality and personalized care, the provider must have some understanding of a patient’s faith and religion. For nurses working in a healing hospital, the assessment will provide the physical, mental, social, and spiritual foundations of the patient’s needs. This paper will discuss Hinduism, Native American, and Wicca religions to compare them with the Christian faith, and will look at spirituality in relation to healing, the role of prayer and rituals, and the relation with the caregiver.Health Care Provider and Faith Diversity

Hinduism is the most ancient religion of India, dating from 2500 B.C.E., with patients who are “sensitive to human nature, purity, health and illness, life and death, and the status of the individual” (Coward & Sidhu, 2000, p 3). Hindus believe in gods and goddesses who influence different aspects of life, reincarnation and rebirth, and Karma (Coward & Sidhu, 2000). In the Hindu religion, life is a cycle where every event in one’s life will influence the circumstances of the next life, the Karma (Coward & Sidhu, 2000). Death is a transition to the next life, at which time the patient and family prefer to be at home rather than at a hospital (Ehman, 2012). Pre- death rituals may include tying a thread around the wrist or the neck, which can be removed only by family members (Ehman, 2012). Patients in Hinduism are “sensitive to human nature, purity, health and illness, life and death, and the status of the individual” (Coward & Sidhu, 2000, p 3). After death, family members of the same sex as the patient will wash the body (Ehman, 2012). If informed consent is needed from a Hindu, “the patient’s societal context as well as the religious or spiritual dimension” must be considered, because the approval of the extended family and caste must be given (Coward & Sidhu, 2000, p 4). Prayer time is in the evening, after a ritual of washing and cleaning the body, and will include readings from Ramayana, the Hindu book of human values (Wintz & Cooper, 2003).


The first people native to the Americas were the American Indians, or Native Americans (for the younger generation), a cultural group with a strong connection between medicine and religion (Broone & Broone, 2007). The Native American religion is based on the synergy and connection between “Mother Earth and nature, Father Sky, and all of life through the Creator, Great Spirit, Great Mystery, or Maker of All Things.,” and aAll things are believed to have life and spirit (Broone & Broone, 2007). Illness is seen as a disruption between the balance of the individual and the universe, and healing is the correction of the Imbalances, provided by traditional healers. Prayers or chants, smudging (using smoke from sacred herbs), herbal remedies including salves, herbs, tobacco, ointments, and teas, or dances are all used to heal (Broone & Broone, 2007). The patient may wear an amulet, or medicine bag, filled with herbs (Wintz & Cooper, 2003).Health Care Provider and Faith Diversity

The nurse or physician must be careful not to move the bag when examining the patient, or move ritualistic objects that may be in the room around the patient (Wintz & Cooper, 2003). If needed, a family member will move the object or the amulet. Hospitality and respect may lead the patient to share the hospital food with visitors or family. The Native American patient will integrate Western medicine very easily, but will continue to practice his primary culture (Wintz & Cooper, 2003). The practitioner will need to be aware of any possible interactions between drugs and herbs. The diet will be a challenge, as a patient with this culture will believe that food that is blessed is no longer harmful (Wintz & Cooper, 2003). In all cases, Western practitioners cannot expect the traditional beliefs to be openly discussed.

Wicca, one of the largest minority religions in the United States, is part of Pagan and Nature Spiritualist groups and is now recognized and protected as a religion, with civil right in Federal Courts (Smith-Stoner & Young, 2007). The number of participants is increasing every year, but “many Pagans hide their religious beliefs and practices… because of fear of discrimination” (Smith-Stoner & Young, 2007, p 280). Wiccans do not have a specific dogma, or a spiritual building where they practice their faith. Worship is conducted in open air and other sacred places (Smith-Stoner & Young, 2007). Wiccans worship a male god and a female goddess in many forms, the Wheel of the Year, a calendar built around the cycles and seasons of the Earth, and they use many symbols, the most common being the Pentacle (Smith-Stoner & Young, 2007). They practice magic as an act of “changing consciousness by the use of one’s will” and would use magic to “ease pain or assist in the passage into the Summerland” which is the term referring to the end of life (Smith-Stoner & Young, 2007, p 281). One of the most common misconceptions is that Wiccans worship Satan but they “believe the Devil to be an historical myth rooted in misunderstanding related to earth-centered religions” (Smith-Stoner & Young, 2007, p 281). They accept Western medicine, but nurses may not know that their patients are Wiccan because they do not speak openly about their faith. Blood transfusions and vaccines are left to the individual to decide, and it is usual for Wicca to request placentas and umbilical cords, or amputated limbs, to be returned to them after removal (Deerman, Rasmussen, Oldenwilde, 1996).Health Care Provider and Faith Diversity

Compared to Christianity, Hinduism, Native American and Wicca religions have similarities and differences. In all religions, patients accept pain management. , and iIn Markwell’s article, he supports the claim with extends the explanation that Catholics believe that those “whose pain is untreated often experience feelings of abandonment, which in turn increases their suffering” (Markwell, 2005, p 5). This concept of abandonment can certainly be extended to any patient who is in pain and whose practitioner is not listening and not relieving the pain, which is consistent with my own beliefs. Every patient should be given pain management, but in a dose that gives comfort without taking away mental acuity.

There may be some exceptions, however: , if requested by patients- some patients would rather not keep mental acuity. In all of the religions studied, patients keep objects with them to remind them of their faith, including a rosary for Catholics, jewelry and ornaments for Hindus, amulets or medicine bags for Native Americans, and jewelry, altars, and statues for Wiccans (Ehman, 2012). End of life for these religions is a time of passage, and involves the use of rituals, with family and friends surrounding the patient. Catholics will ask to receive the sacraments of the sick or their Last Rites, which something I would also appreciate also (Ehman, 2012). Most of the patients of any religion discussed here, including myself, would prefer to die at home, surrounded by their loved ones and the representative of their faith. When end of life happens in a hospital, the practitioner should be aware of the need for many visitors and a religious representative prior to death. Compared to Christianity, all three religions studied in this paper have kept close contact with herbal medicine, life cycles, and nature. All three religions have allowedadopted the Western medicine when needed, especially like the Christian faith., and aAll have restrictions on speaking openly about their beliefs in American hospitals. There are some differences, however. Christians think that prayer is a major component to healing, as do Native American religions, but Wiccans prefer magic. The major difference in these religions is the use of magic by the Wiccans, which challenges their credibility and makes public acceptance difficult.Health Care Provider and Faith Diversity

In conclusion, Iillness and hospitalization are difficult times for patients of any religion. During this time, the health care provider will give holistic care to a patient if they are able to assess the body, mind, and soul. A complete patient assessment will offer the provider a spiritual background so they can plan personalized healing and recovery interventions for the patient. The healing process will be successful if spiritual care is provided with respect for the religion and ritual practice. In conclusion, Having knowledge of diversity in patient’s faith empowers the health caregiver to provide holistic care. When patients receive body, mind, and soul intervention, healing will happen faster. When healing is not possible, and end of life care is the only option, respecting a patient’s beliefs will comfort the patient and the family during a difficult time. The acknowledgement of someone’s faith is possible only when the provider is respectful and non-judgmental about other’s beliefs, and has established a trusted relationship. From my research, I can now identify Wiccans, and realize their spiritual needs, which I was not able to do in the past. In the future, I will know that many religions have specific beliefs about body parts and keeping the body whole, so education is needed at all levels of healthcare providers in order to give insight into other religions that will lead to respect for other beliefs.

Broome, B., & Broome, R. (2007). Native Americans: Traditional healing. Urologic Nursing, 27(2), 161-3, 173. Retrieved (date) from
Coward, H., & Sidhu, T. (2000). Bioethics for clinicians: 19. hinduism and sikhism. Canadian Medical Association Journal, 163 (9), 1167-70. Retrieved (date) from Health Care Provider and Faith Diversity