The key to success in providing spiritual care is providing every patient who walks into your office one thing. It’s not conversion or baptism. It’s not bible study. It’s not even prayer. It’s opportunity. As a Christian physician, my aim is to provide the patient with the opportunity to connect with God and know him better.
In Revelation 3:20, Jesus says, “Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me.” The Biblical model is to provide patients with opportunities.
One effective way to do this is through the use of faith flags. A faith flag is an implicit way to communicate to patients that it’s okay to talk about religious or spiritual matters. Here are 6 types of faith flags we currently use in our office.
Hang faith-based artwork or quotes in your clinic.
Some art or quotes we’ve used have been subtle. Others have been forthright. Here are some examples of art work or quotes in our clinic
I had a good conversation with a patient about the meaning of this quote.
Select literature helpful to a patient’s health and spiritual walk.
Often I’ve seen doctor’s offices filled with magazines meant for entertainment. Nothing wrong with that. But what a wasted opportunity for what could be helpful for a patient in their health or spiritual walk.
Provide a spiritual assessment on a patient’s intake form.
This has actually been suggested by an article in the American Academy of Family Physician. Examples of spiritual assessment forms include surveys such as FICA or HOPE. My partner has developed his own spiritual assessments forms in the office. On every intake form we have a list of check boxes including “I need refills” or “I need a doctor’s note.” On the list we also have the check box for “I would like my physician to pray with me.”
Play Christian music in the background without words
Person’s who are either spiritual or have a spiritual background may pick up on certain melodies. We are careful not to play the music with lyrics with words so as not to be offensive.
Provide your patient a spiritual postcard after a visit
I won’t do this with every patient. But if I perceive a patient may benefit from one, I may include a postcard in the paperwork as a way to indicate to them I’m open to discussing matters of faith.
Use faith flags in your patient conversation
I’ve been able to gauge how open patients are to spiritual things by weaving faith flags into my conversations with patients. For example, some patients will look for a congratulatory response from me after an accomplishment like losing 5 pounds. I usually respond saying, “Praise God. Great job!” If they respond saying, “God has been good to me.” Then I know we can talk about spiritual matters. If they say, “Thank you I’ve had to work hard to receive this result.” Then they may not be as open to matters of faith.
Faith flags are great for two reasons. First, as mentioned above, they provide patients opportunity to connect spiritually. Second, faith flags act as a kind of informed consent. It lets the patient know where you stand in matters of faith. So when you mention God or anything spiritual, it doesn’t come up as a surprise.
What are some ways you’ve used faith flags in your practice?