Taking a “Spiritual History” gives insight

Vanderbilt University fourth-year medical student, Dana Hipp, writes of her primary care rotation at Siloam…

I think the most important lesson to take away from Siloam is the importance of taking a spiritual history and staying open to the possibility of prayer with our patients in certain situations. Prior to Siloam, I had heard of a spiritual history, but never taken one. It was a wonderful opportunity for me to be in an environment where I could practice this skill.

With each patient, the spiritual history allowed me to better understand the patient’s medical concerns. For example, I learned that patients who are Muslim need non-gelatin medication. I would have continued to prescribe medication with gelatin had we not had this conversation. It is likely that the patient would never have taken the gelatin medication had we not made the change.

In addition, praying with the patient enhanced the patient-physician relationship and provided a much deeper understanding of their background and experience. I will never forget the 21 year old female who had an abortion and as a result experienced a strained relationship with God and allowed herself to stay in an abusive relationship. Without the spiritual history, I would have had a more superficial understanding of the patient’s chief complaint had I not been able to discuss spirituality or prayer. I plan to continue to practice this skill in the hospital when the appropriate opportunity presents itself.

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