Attentiveness to Religious/Spiritual Coping and Meaning Questions of Patients

A Survey Among Physicians in Dutch Academic Hospitals

In: Journal of Empirical Theology
Joseph Pieper Tilburg University, Faculty of Theology The Netherlands

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Nicolette Hijweege Groningen University, Faculty of Theology and Religious Studies The Netherlands

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Wim Smeets Radboud University Nijmegen, Medical Centre The Netherlands

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Illness is a bio-psycho-social-spiritual process. Physicians focus primarily on the physical level; but attention to the other levels — including the religious/spiritual level — is recommended. Research, predominantly conducted in the usa, indicates that the worldview of physicians determines their attentiveness to their patient’s religiosity/spirituality. This study investigates medical specialists in academic hospitals in the Netherlands. The study participants were 664 medical specialists from five Dutch academic hospitals. In the more secularised Netherlands, attention to the spiritual level also includes attention to meaningfulness, and related questions of meaning. Our research attempted to show the influence of the worldview of these specialists on their attention to the religiosity/spirituality of and questions of meaning raised by very ill patients. Religiosity/spirituality was operationalised in religious/spiritual coping activities. Meaning questions were measured by a self-constructed instrument. We found four clusters of relevant meaning questions: ‘end of life’, ‘God’, ‘attributions’ and ‘relationship with significant others’. Attentiveness to religious/spiritual coping was influenced by the salience of a worldview in the life of the medical specialists. No such influence was detected with regard to questions of meaning.

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