Spirituality in Healthcare – Book Review

I’ve had the good fortune and opportunity to review one of the latest books published from Oxford University Textbooks – yes, “THE” Oxford University. The book is titled “Spirituality in Healthcare”. You can source it through www.oup.com .

This book is a MUST read for every professional in Healthcare. This book is different. It’s certainly not your average light reading. Far from it! “Spirituality in Healthcare” is written at a university textbook level style oriented to a serious study of the subject – (I suspect) it’s intended as a source for an entire university semester course.

Let’s get on with looking at why this book is different and exploring a subject that we tend to gloss over in today’s secular world. During the last one hundred or so years as science progressed in medicine, spirituality seemed to decline. spirituality didn’t seem logically, wasn’t quantifiable and certainly couldn’t meet criteria for science laws, never mind even as a theory. Yet during this same time period we have hundreds (thousands) of documented examples of spirituality playing a part in the healing of humans.

Across the globe, in almost every culture spirituality aids healing, reduces suffering and comforts those afflicted with disease and their families. For many, spirituality plays a major role in developing a will to go on, giving hope where none should exist and for scores of people delivering “miracles” despite best science evidence to the contrary. Often Medical Healthcare professionals will shrug their shoulders and have no idea why someone survives when by all accounts they should have died. Even in our last moments, spirituality seems to offer serenity and comfort as we pass from this world – both for the patient and often for close family members and friends.

So defines the dichotomy of spirituality. Yet, “Spirituality in Healthcare” brings a fresh new perspective to the subject. Almost every aspect of spirituality is covered in this book. Seen through the eyes of hundreds of main stream science and medical contributors (The contribution lists reads like a who’s  who of the world medical and science based communities) this book looks at the history, development and application of every main stream faith, religion, cultural and even political based beliefs.

Here are just a few of the subjects covered: Taoism, Muslim, Christianity, New Age, Indigenous Spirituality, Philosophy, Atheism, Secularism, Sikhism, Judaism, Buddhism, and in addition subjects like, Belief, Hope, Compassion, Dignity, Suffering and Ritual are also looked at. In section 3 of the book looks at Healthcare Chaplaincy, Social Work, Care of Children, Palliative care, Nursing and more. Section 4 covers Research – Quality of Life, Prayer and meditation, Coping, Cognitive sciences and includes a chapter on the links between religion and health: what has empirical research taught us? Section 5 of the book explores policy and education including how administration, regional health boards and government health authorities can develop and apply policies that umbrella science and spiritual healthcare in their organizations. Finally in section 6 future challenges of healthcare and spirituality get explored.

Each is examined and defined. Belief structures are explained and practical advice is given for Healthcare professionals to use when faced with serious disease of patients/family of these belief systems. Empathy and understanding are the greatest tools that Health Care professionals bring to the treatment of the sick or injured. “Spirituality in Healthcare” delivers astounding insight of the human condition. It will position professionals to deliver scientific medicine and deliver healthcare outcomes that meet both the physical and spiritual needs of their patients.  In many cases I suspect healthcare professionals who utilize the knowledge in this book will see results that will wildly exceed expected medical assumptions – even so, practicing health professionals will gladly accept those outcomes without fully understanding them. Such is the real power of human spirituality.

If spirituality and health interests you – get this book! If you’d like me to explore some of the subjects mentioned in this book in more detail, comment below.

© Ron Merk


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“Spirituality in Healthcare” – OXFORD University Press 2012. Edited by Mark Cobb, Christina M. Puchalski, Bruce Rumbold ISBN 978-0-19-957139-0

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