Religious preferences, beliefs, and practices are all things that will likely be encountered, regardless of one’s line of work. Religion affiliation for some is a passive association carrying less weight in their day-to-day living but for others it is a very real and integral part of their lives; shaping how they handle situations, personal preferences, and attitudes about health care. Educating healthcare providers about various religions not only allows them to be more culturally competent in their respective fields but also will help guide them in practical implications for health care about the needs of those they serve.1
As modern medicine continues to advance, health care no longer takes a dualistic approach and tends to focus more on the physical dysfunction. Some studies suggest that spirituality should be considered a vital sign that should be assessed during a patient's treatment. Previous research shows that patients who receive religious services during their medical stay have decreased perceptions of pain and a higher rating of their received clinical care.2 In today’s world of health care some basic knowledge about religions might be helpful in understanding and accommodating our patients’ needs.1
Below are main ideas of popular religious groups and their interaction with healthcare providers. These religions are identified as some of the top faith groups in the United States.3
Christianity is the largest religious group in the world making up about 33% of the world’s population. In the United States, 88% of the population identifies themselves as Christians. This religious group is made up many subgroups that all widely vary in their beliefs, worship, religious rules and practices.3,4 Patient attitudes may vary depending on their personal view of health problems, which might include viewing them as a punishment or personal test from God, consequence of personal behavior, uncontrollable event in which they are the victim, or natural course of life events.5
If a subgroup has a strong belief in or practices faith healing, they may be more hesitant in trusting modern medical practice. For subgroups that practice outside prayer, those people providing outside prayer may visit patients in the hospital to pray with them and privacy should be given in this situation. Especially in a hospital setting, there are often clergy visitations, either personal religious leaders or hospital chaplains, to patients. Healthcare providers should respect the privacy of the patient/clergy visit and avoid entering the room unless given permission by the patient. For end of life care, the provider should consult with the family about preferences because depending on the subgroup there may be ritual and practices followed during the time leading up to death. There are different baptismal beliefs and preferences among the subgroups, which makes it important to ask the parents or family about such preferences if a...