Assignment: Cure-oriented Model.
The technological advances of the past century tended to change the focus of medicine from a caring, service oriented model to a technological, cure-oriented model. Technology has led to phenomenal advances in medicine and has given us the ability to prolong life. However, in the past few decades physicians have attempted to balance their care by reclaiming medicine’s more spiritual roots, recognizing that until modern times spirituality was often linked with health care. Spiritual or compassionate care involves serving the whole person—the physical, emotional, social, and spiritual. Such service is inherently a spiritual activity. Rachel Naomi Remen, MD, who has developed Commonweal retreats for people with cancer, described it well:
Helping, fixing, and serving represent three different ways of seeing life. When you help, you see life as weak. When you fix, you see life as broken. When you serve, you see life as whole. Fixing and helping may be the work of the ego, and service the work of the soul ( 1 ).
Serving patients may involve spending time with them, holding their hands, and talking about what is important to them. Patients value these experiences with their physicians. In this article, I discuss elements of compassionate care, review some research on the role of spirituality in health care, highlight advantages of understanding patients’ spirituality, explain ways to practice spiritual care, and summarize some national efforts to incorporate spirituality into medicine.
COMPASSIONATE CARE: HELPING PATIENTS FIND MEANING IN THEIR SUFFERING AND ADDRESSING THEIR SPIRITUALITY
The word compassion means “to suffer with.” Compassionate care calls physicians to walk with people in the midst of their pain, to be partners with patients rather than experts dictating information to them.
Victor Frankl, a psychiatrist who wrote of his experiences in a Nazi concentration camp, wrote: “Man is not destroyed by suffering; he is destroyed by suffering without meaning” (2). One of the challenges physicians face is to help people find meaning and acceptance in the midst of suffering and chronic illness.
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