As a Christian physician I can suffer from a Savior Complex. People need to be saved. And it’s all up to me. Aside from the inherent narcissistic attitude of this condition, the problem with this is that it fails to engage office staff in the mission of meeting spiritual need.
I had an idea for how to serve patients and discussed it with my mentor. I was figuring a way to cut costs for low income patients. My mentor turned the idea down because I alone could participate in the idea. He wanted me to think about how I could engage the entire staff. How could I encourage them to also meet spiritual need?
So one week I tried something. Each staff member was challenged to pray with one patient that week.
The response was encouraging. One of the staff asked, So how do you know which person to pray with? I smiled, Those are precisely the type of questions I have to deal with. Pray that God will lead you. Though all our staff is Christian, for the first time they were thinking about how to meet the spiritual needs of patients.
At the end of the week we gathered to talk about the experience. The staff learned how easy the grind of daily activity results in missed opportunities to minister to spiritual needs. One of the staff members took in a patient who requested prayer. She thought to herself, Now is my opportunity to pray with a patient. However, she admitted after taking vitals on patient she forgot to pray with the patient. I told this staff person how often the same thing has happened to me several times. Keeping a focus on meeting spiritual needs is challenging.
But I did have a young patient who was especially touched from the prayer challenge. I was running late, so my medical assistant began taking a medical history. Apparently she was suffering from anxiety, depression and infidelity in her marriage. She was also socially isolated with no family or friends. When I met with her she remarked to me, I appreciated your medical assistant. He listened to me, prayed with me, gave me the number to him and his wife, and got me a cup of water. No one has ever treated me with such kindness.
As Christian physicians and providers we ought not to think that spiritual care is only up to us. Let’s engage our staff in the same mission.