Health Care Provider and Faith Diversity


Health care providers encounter and care for a diverse population of patients. When caring for these patients, providers must be properly prepared to care for not only for their cultural needs but also for their spiritual/faith needs. Nurses must have a basic yet broad knowledge of cultural and spiritual needs of patients whether in the hospital setting, clinic setting, or physician’s office. This document will explore three different faiths and compare them to Christianity and the author’s own faith/spirituality.

The three faiths being explored and compared are Buddhism, Hinduism, and Jehovah’s Witnesses. Basic knowledge of each one of these culture’s preferences for medical care, prayer/meditation, diet, view of illness, and view of death will permit the health care provider to provide care that is culturally congruent. Providing patient care that is culturally congruent, will help promote patient healing, wellness, and compliance if the patient feels they are being not only medically cared for but spiritually nurtured.

Health Care Provider and Faith Diversity

Health care providers encounter and care for patients from diverse cultural and religious backgrounds. Whether in the hospital, clinic, or physician office setting health care providers must be aware and prepared to address and care for patients and families that are not only of varied cultures but religions as well. In a country where such a variety of cultures and religions exists, health care providers must be prepared to provide the best quality care which includes culturally and spiritually sensitive care.

A nursing theory which was created to address this diversity, is the Transcultural Nursing Theory also known as Culture Care Diversity and Universality Theory. Madeline Leininger was a nursing theorist who began her nursing career by first earning a registered nurse diploma followed by a Baccalaureate degree in nursing, a Master of Science degree in psychiatric and mental health nursing, and a Doctorate in cultural and social anthropology (Sitzman & Eichelberger, 2011).

Through Leininger’s work experience both as a nurse and anthropologist, Leininger recognized that there was an absence of knowledge and practice of culturally diverse care. She knew that nursing needed to gain knowledge about culturally diverse care which would help nurses understand the modifications needed in care of patients to support compliance, wellness, and healing (Sitzman & Eichelberger, 2011). Leininger developed the Transcultural Nursing Theory and also conceived the term, culturally congruent care, which is the main objective of transcultural nursing (Sitzman & Eichelberger, 2011). Transcultural nursing seeks to provide culturally congruent care with respect to culture, values, and beliefs which includes spirituality and religion. Thirty to forty years ago, patient care was approached by ensuring to apply the proper medical science to the disease (Loma Linda University Health System, n.d.).

In today’s society however, it is well known that spirituality plays an important role to health outcomes. For this reason, health care providers must be able to provide care that is culturally competent and spiritually nurturing (Loma Linda University Health System, n.d.). For the purpose of this assignment, three different faiths were explored for their beliefs and preferences when receiving health care services. In addition to exploring the three selected faiths, they will also be compared to Christianity and the author’s own faith/spirituality. The three selected faiths are Buddhism, Hinduism, and Jehovah’s Witnesses. When caring for members of these three faiths or any other faith, the nurse must exhibit care that is culturally sensitive by demonstrating respect for differences in religion, respect for patient individuality, remain open minded, don’t assume anything, ask questions, and be actively aware of non-verbal and verbal responses from the client (Kirstine-Griffith, 2009).

Buddhism is a faith not of belief but of understanding which traces its origins to India during the sixth century B.C. There are over a billion Buddhists throughout this world with varieties among them. The leading Buddhist branches are the Theravada of Southern India and the Mahayana whom are more permissive and are open to enlightening the general public. Buddhism sees life as an inescapable process of birth, maturing, sickness, death, and consider that deliverance from suffering occurs through Nirvana and Enlightenment (Kirstine-Griffith, 2009). Buddhists believe that an individual who is focused spiritually will not fall ill but if illness occurs they feel that a cure can be obtained by herbal treatment and by correction in their thinking (Loma Linda University Health System, n.d.). Some Buddhists are believers that the immune system can be strengthened by exposing their bodies to harsh natural elements (Loma Linda University Health System, n.d.).

Buddhists are believers in rebirth therefore birth is viewed as a special point in time when awareness enters the womb for re-birth. Death is viewed as passage to a subsequent life and therefore an individual must die in a state of mind that is good so they may be likely to experience a more favorable re-birth (Loma Linda University Health System, n.d.). Members of this faith can be vegetarian or non-vegetarian, eat moderate amounts, and abstain from alcohol or drugs since they have an effect on mental clarity (Kirstine-Griffith, 2009). A quiet environment is important for daily prayer and meditation, blood donation is seen as honorable, organ donation may be acceptable to some members of the faith, and western medicine may be avoided by some because it is thought to cause body weakness (Loma Linda University Health System, n.d.).

Hinduism is a religion that predates written history and in modern times is practiced by approximately 80% of India’s population (Kirstine-Griffith, 2009). Although there are a great number of gods in Hinduism, they are thought to be variations of the three foremost deities Shiva, Vishu, and Brahma (Loma Linda University Health System, n.d.). Hindus view birth into a superior or poor situation in a subsequent life as a direct result of their actions (Karma) in their previous life (Kirstine-Griffith, 2009). Birth inequalities, mental disabilities, and physical disabilities are seen as directly related to deeds of past lives (Kirstine-Griffith, 2009). Diversity exists among the Hindu faith which gives rise to a variety of daily religious practices, ceremonies, and rituals. The main objective for Hindu members, is to become one with the Supreme Being which leads to an environment of serenity and peace. Finding God and reaching a state of peace and serenity can be achieved through devotion, meditation, and yoga (Loma Linda University Health System, n.d.). Hindus feel the cause of injury, sickness, or illness to the law of karma which states that one reaps what one sows (Loma Linda University Health System, n.d.).

Most Hindu faith members are vegetarian but for those who are non-vegetarian, they refrain from eating beef or pork (Loma Linda University Health System, n.d.). It is common for the Hindu community to be supportive of a patient, so large number of visitors can be expected. If death occurs in the hospital setting, health care providers should be aware that family members may want to have the body face to the east with a light near the patient’s head. Generally friends and family may be at bedside to chant mantras from sacred scriptures and sing hymns (Loma Linda University Health System, n.d.). Jehovah’s Witnesses are a Christian society who exist worldwide. Members of this faith are trained as ministers to be active in bearing witness to Jehovah and his purposes (Kirstine-Griffith, 2009). Originally this branch of Christianity formed as a result of a Bible study group in the 1870’s and later selected the name Jehovah’s Witnesses in 1931 (Kirstine-Griffith, 2009). Jehovah’s Witnesses do not celebrate birthdays or common Christian holidays (Ehman, 2012). Strong family relationships are encouraged and any association with politics is to be avoided (Loma Linda University Health System, n.d.).

A quiet environment to allow for prayer is desired and may include family or other members of the faith (Kirstine-Griffith, 2009). One of the utmost characterizing points regarding Jehovah’s Witnesses in health care is the rigid exclusion against accepting blood products which include plasma, platelets, white blood cells, or red blood cells (Ehman, 2012). A few blood fractions such as albumin, immunoglobulins, and hemophiliac preparations are permitted and are left to the patient’s own conscience (Ehman, 2012). Members are required to abstain from eating blood or meats that have not been properly drained of blood (Loma Linda University Health System, n.d.). Jehovah’s Witnesses abstain from tobacco and non-prescription medications, wine is permitted but only in moderate amounts. Induced abortion is seen as taking of a human life and is therefore unacceptable, and if at birth time a choice must be made to save the life of the child or the mother, the decision is left to the unborn child’s parents (Loma Linda University Health System, n.d.).

There aren’t any unique practices associated with a faith member’s death, autopsies are not unacceptable, and burial or cremation are equally acceptable (Loma Linda University Health System, n.d.). This paper’s author was born and raised in the Roman Catholic tradition in addition to Mexican culture/traditions. The Catholic tradition follows the basic Christian beliefs and includes the Sacraments of Baptism, Confirmation, Reconciliation, Anointing of the sick, and the Eucharist. Priests are of high importance especially prior to surgery or if perceived risk of death is present (Ehman, 2012). In cases where an infant may die before a priest arrives, any person with good intent may perform the Baptism by pouring water over infants head and Baptizing him/her in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit (Ehman, 2012).

There are no specific diet requirements for the Catholic patient with the exception of a meatless diet on Ash Wednesday and every Friday during Lent (Loma Linda University Health System, n.d.), After review of the three selected faiths and this paper’s author own faith some similarities and differences can be identified. Between Buddhism and Hinduism similarities noted were the practices of quiet meditation/yoga and belief that the position or condition in current life is related to actions from a past life. Both these faiths believe in re-birth (recycling of life). Between Jehovah’s Witnesses and the Roman Catholic faith some of the Christian beliefs hold true for both however differ in items such as not observing birthdays, Christmas, Easter and the strict following of not accepting blood products through transfusion or other forms.

In conclusion, all faiths may have similarities or differences between them but healthcare providers must be prepared to treat any and all patients with respect. In addition to providing medical treatment, health care providers must be prepared to also provide care that is culturally competent and spiritually nurturing. A health care provider who is versed in patient diversity will be prepared to recognize the variations needed to provide patient care that helps promote healing, compliance, and wellness (Sitzman & Eichelberger, 2011).

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