“…a hospital without soul is a body repair shop”

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“A hospital with soul is a place of healing; a hospital without soul is a body repair shop.” I’m quoting here from Care of the Soul in Medicine by Thomas Moore. In my view, if you work in healthcare then you must read it, give a copy to your CEO (unless that’s you, in which case you should make it required reading for your entire staff).  This is an engaging, accessible, and inspiring work in which Moore presents us with a new vision for medicine – a vision that takes us beyond medicine as a physical science, matrix of prescriptions and treatment plans and sophisticated machines.

Founded on principles of human connection, and spiritual teachings from the ages, Moore helps us to see a world of possibility for healing that goes beyond our traditional, ‘westernized’ concepts of medicine and healthcare delivery. Moore argues that it’s time to shed ‘our modernist values’ and their limitations. He suggests that we can be both professional and idealist at the same time. Being spiritual does not mean we have to be obnoxiously ideological; we can be passionately called to do what we love without being naive or overly emotional. It is time, in fact to appreciate, understand, and integrate nontraditional practices for helping the healing process;  practices that presence of soul and radiant spirit provide.

Treating the whole person’

Treating the whole person, body, soul and spirit may be the missing link when it comes to providing care that transforms patient and provider alike. As Moore explains it, “The soul is the invisible factor that draws people together, brings out their humanity, and gives depth and meaning to whatever they do. When you treat people as objects, as cases and syndromes and machines in need of repair, you will not be a healer, not even a doctor or nurse. You will be a technician, a human repairman, a functionary in a world of objects. Soul will not enter your work, not into your skillful use of techniques and not into your relationship with patients. Your work will not satisfy you, not because it isn’t worthy work, but because there is no soul to give it a deep human pulse.”

Moore elaborates on ways in which soul and spirit can be cultivated or evoked throughout the entire patient encounter. Both patient and provider benefit; as the medical worker cares for the whole person on the job, his home life will benefit. Still further he tells us that “The rewards of being fully present and dealing with whole persons are so much greater than those of a purely physical approach.” “In addition, attention to soul and spirit gives the practice of medicine a grander context and bigger vision. It is easier and more fulfilling to be a person of great vision than to focus only on specific skills and physical issues.” Moreover, Moore is “convinced that dissatisfaction with work I the medical field is largely due to a narrowing of vision.”

What about you?

How many of us have felt a lack of presence, spirit or soul in our dealings with healthcare providers or support staff? There are moments when we feel our own spiritual void no matter the circumstance, healthcare related or otherwise.  But if we’re not consciously bringing our full resources, intellectual, physical and spiritual to patients or coworkers then we’re missing the mark!  After all, getting cared for by someone that lacks true caring or compassion feels awful!

Ever had the experience of dining at a really great restaurant, beautiful décor, elegant seating, with mouthwatering aromas wafting throughout?  Unfortunately your server was robotic, going through the motions, making you feel more like a (potential) ‘tip’ than a customer! The server’s lack of presence or care can ruin even the best prepared meal. On the other hand, a mediocre meal is transformed when soul is present; one in which the person bringing your food makes you feel really served and cared for.  Obviously, providing healthcare is not the same as running a restaurant. The thread here is the positive impact and the healing energy that radiates when soul and spirit are present. We just feel better when we know someone cares, and helping people to feel better is the point.

Things and questions to consider

A soulful place of healing can be expressed in so many ways and on many levels. Healing and a sense of well being can be invoked through the use of color, light, architecture, imagery, sound or quality of conversation.

  • Does your hospital or practice environment feel soulful?
  • Does your organization employ imagery, color, water features, art or statues to help evoke spirit or imbue well being?
  • What are the daily conversations that constitute the culture your workplace?
  • What are the opportunities for making amends, letting go of resentments or acknowledging accomplishments?
  • Are there plans for creating an integrated, holistic approach to care that involves some of the various aspects of healing as described above?

The healing power within us

According to Moore, one of the vows ascribed to the Radiant Healing Buddha, Lapis Lazuli, is; “I will heal by my radiance and my presence.” In my view, if there is one central theme here, it is this;  there is a critical need for all of us to be ever more mindful of our direct potential for healing and helping others – a potential that transcends science and ordinary explanation and profoundly connects us to our essential human nature, our human connection forged in soul and lifted by spirit. “You are always going to radiate some attitude or message; you may as well radiate the best you have. Treating soul and spirit in distress eases anxiety, helps relationships, ands offers a sense of meaning and hope that will otherwise be elusive.”

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