I graduated from a medical school (Loma Linda University) that encouraged it’s medical students to pray with patients when appropriate. Even as a third year medical student I remember taking the time pray with a patient at the VA Hospital. Though the rotation was stressful and even life-draining, praying with that patient gave me energy and improved our relationship.
Every physician and medical provider hopes to build a solid relationship with their patient. Without it, little good can be done. Prayer can be a powerful tool to help solidify a physician-patient relationship. Here are 4 reasons why medical providers should pray with their patients.
- Prayer is good patient care. According to one survey, 77% of patients said physicians ought to consider the spiritual needs of patients, however 68% said their physician had never discussed these issues with them. Religion is a personal and plays a special part in a person’s life. When we take the time to pray with a patient, it shows care and concern for an often neglected area of medicine.
- Prayer calms anxiety. In his book, Gray Matters, neurosurgeon David Levy writes about an experience at the dentist that made him feel feel anxious. The dentist, feeling his apprehension, put his hand on his shoulder, said a prayer before moving on with the procedure. Instantly Levy noted a peace that came over him. From that time on he decided to implement prayer into his own practice.
I see this all the time with my patients as well. For those who are open to it, I offer a prayer and have noted a marked difference in their demeanor.
- Prayer builds trust. One study found that couples who prayed together had a higher degree of trust. If it works between couples why not between a medical provider and the patient?
This has certainly borne out in my experience. I think of one my patient Bella who has suffered from chronic migraines and would repeatedly come to the doctor’s office for flare-ups of her chronic migraine headache. We’ve got her to quit smoking, control her anxiety, exercise regularly and change her diet in addition to conventional medical care. As a result the frequency of her migraine flares has significantly reduced. The other day, she told me, You know Dr. Roquiz. I really, really trust you. You tell me to do something and I will really do it because I trust you. So you tell me to exercise 20 minutes a day then I will make sure I exercise 20 minutes a day!
As I’ve reflected on what built that trust, I’m certain prayer played a significant role. Every time she comes in, I end our appointment by taking her hand, bowing my head and saying a prayer for her. Prayer builds trust.
- Prayer opens up discussions to spiritual health. According to one study about 90% of Americans pray more or less on a regular basis. And nearly half of patients want their doctors to pray for them. Spiritual health is an integral part to a person’s’ wellbeing. It pertains to aspects of life such as meaning and purpose. According to Dan Buetner of the Blue Zones, just knowing your purpose increases your longevity by 7 years. Personally, I’ve noted meaningful and deep conversations with patients that come from the fact that I am open to praying with them.
Praying with patients solidifies a patient-physician relationship which serves as the foundation to good medical care. Transform the way you interact with patients and try praying with those who are open to it.
 David R. Hodge, “A Systematic Review of the Empirical Literature on Intercessory Prayer” in Research on Social Work Practice March 2007 vol. 17 no. 2 174-187
 Lambert, Nathaniel; Fincham, Frank; LaVallee, Dana; Brantley, Cicely (6 June 2011). “Praying Together and Staying Together: Couple Prayer and Trust”. Psychology of Religion and Spirituality.
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