Breaking the taboo: discussing spirituality and beliefs with your patients and your students

Date:  Sunday 6 September 2020
Time:  0930-1230
Location:  Orkney, Crowne Plaza

  • Veronica Selleger, Amsterdam UMC, Location VUmc, the Netherlands
  • Zamzam  I.A. Ali, Kismayo Medical Centre, Somalia
  • Aviad Haramati, Georgetown University, USA
  • Maaike Matulewicz, Amsterdam UMC, the Netherlands
  • Monica van de Ridder, Michigan State University College of Human Medicine, USA
Summary of theme and why it is important:  It is well-recognized that cultural values and spiritual beliefs impact on a patient’s health and healing. Indeed, when caring for seriously ill patients, it can be crucial to inquire about the patient’s beliefs, personal values or spirituality. However, doctors often avoid these delicate subjects for a variety of reasons, e.g. local cultural taboos and lack of training. When medical educators avoid discussing the importance of a patient’s beliefs and spirituality, they convey the message that it is not a doctor’s role to discuss these issues with a patient (hidden curriculum). If we want our students to be able to ask what really matters in the life of a seriously ill patient, we should teach them a respectful, curious and open minded approach. This starts with being able to express your own spiritual beliefs and doubts in a safe educational setting. In this ‘hands on’ workshop, coached by a team with diverse spiritual backgrounds (i.e. Jewish, Protestant, Catholic, Muslim, Agnostic, etc.), participants will work with tools that facilitate sharing one’s personal values, beliefs and spirituality. After welcome (10’), introduction of the topic (15), we will explore the content with two highly interactive small group exercises. The session will close with take home messages from the participants (20’). The key goals will be (a) how to create the environment for safe and authentic sharing, and (b) how to use tools to stimulate the conversation. The workshop offers the rare opportunity to explore the beliefs of colleagues (presenters and participants) with very diverse cultural and religious backgrounds.
What participants will gain:  • Identify challenges related to discussing beliefs and spirituality with colleagues, trainees and patients, • Learn to work with tools that facilitate sharing personal/cultural values and beliefs, • Receive tips on creating a safe environment for sharing personal, intimate, information, • Experience asking questions about the other’s spirituality and beliefs, ‘that they never dared to ask’, • Go home more equipped to navigate these issues in their (educational) practice.
Who should participate:  Clinician educators, communication skills teachers, and faculty preparing students for practice. Students are very welcome.
Level of workshop:  All

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