In the Name of God, The Extremely, Eternally, and Everlastingly Loving and Caring
This past week, we commemorated “Critical Care Week” at our hospital, which celebrates the women and men who dedicate their lives to taking care of the sickest and most critically ill patients: those admitted to an ICU. They are nurses, physicians, patient care technicians, among many others, and I am blessed and forever grateful to be counted among them.
Because these patients are the sickest of the sick, God and faith are frequent topics of discussion, especially when having to discuss the difficult reality that a patient may not get much better. So many times, patients’ family members have told me, “Well, I believe in God,” as if I do not believe in God or, somehow, I am a skeptic of religion and religious faith.
Indeed, there are many physicians that either do not discuss religion and spirituality with patients or, perhaps, are truly skeptics themselves. Indeed, in an article in the Chicago Tribune, it said:
[Experts] believe that as the gap between health care and religion has widened, the quality of care for patients has diminished.
Still, although there may be this gap between medicine and religion, when patients’ families say to me, “I believe in God,” my response to them is, “Well, I believe in God, too.”
I suspect that by telling me “I believe in God,” they are sending me the message that it is He, and not me, that will heal their very sick loved one. Well, I believe the very same thing. I know that, ultimately, it is God that heals and not me.
Now, this does not mean that I will not exert every single effort to help a patient get better. There is nothing I will not do to help my patients. I will stay longer after my shift; stay up for hours on end; and either do my own research or ask other colleagues about something I do not know. I have lost count of the number of times I have been unable to sleep because I have been thinking about my patients’ cases.
All this, and I still know that, at the end of the day, it is God who is the Ultimate Healer. It is God that saves lives, not me.
Thus, when a patient’s mother or wife tells me, “I believe in God,” I am not offended. In fact, because I believe in God, I am very comfortable speaking the language of faith, and this puts those family members who are religious at ease.
So many times I have said to families, when it is inevitable that their loved one will pass on: “Let your loved one go back to God,” or “Because your loved one is a child of God, let them die with dignity, not connected to tubes and machines.” And because we have this connection of faith in a common Lord, these difficult discussions are much easier to have.
Although I am very careful not to impose my religious faith unto my patients, and I am equally careful not to let my personal religious convictions cloud my medical judgment, I believe being a believer in the Intenisve Care Unit has only enhanced my skills as a physician. And it has made me all the more grateful than ever for being blessed to be in Medicine.