Spirituality within the patient-surgeon relationship

J Surg Educ. Jan-Feb 2011;68(1):36-43. doi: 10.1016/j.jsurg.2010.08.007. Epub 2010 Nov 5.


Objective: To assess the attitudes of general and orthopaedic surgical outpatients regarding inquiry into their religious beliefs, spiritual practices, and personal faith.

Design: Prospective, voluntary, self-administered, and anonymously-completed questionnaire, regarding religious beliefs, spiritual practices, and personal faith, March-August, 2009.

Setting: General and orthopaedic surgical outpatient settings, Health Services Foundation, College of Medicine, University of South Alabama, a tertiary care academic medical center in Mobile, Alabama.

Participants: All patients referred for evaluation and management of general and orthopaedic surgical conditions, pre- and postoperatively, were approached.

Methodology: The questionnaire solicited data regarding patient: (1) demographics; (2) religious beliefs, spiritual practices, and personal faith; and (3) opinions regarding inquiry into those subjects by their surgeon. The latter opinions were stratified on a 5-point Likert scale ranging from "strongly disagree" to "strongly agree." Statistical analysis was conducted using software JMP(®) 8 Statistical Discovery Software (S.A.S. Institute Inc., Cary, North Carolina) and a 5% probability level was used to determine significance of results.

Results: Eighty-three percent (83%) of respondents agreed or strongly agreed that surgeons should be aware of their patients' religiosity and spirituality; 63% concurred that surgeons should take a spiritual history; and 64% indicated that their trust in their surgeon would increase if they did so. Nevertheless, 17%, 37%, and 36% disagreed or strongly disagreed with those perspectives, respectively.

Conclusions: By inference to the best explanation of the results, we would argue that religiosity and spirituality are inherent perspectives of patient-surgeon relationships. Consequently, those perspectives are germane to the therapeutic milieu. Therefore, discerning each patient's perspective in those regards is warranted in the context of an integrative and holistic patient-surgeon relationship, the intent of which is to restore a patient to health and well-being.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Age Factors
  • Alabama
  • Attitude of Health Personnel
  • Female
  • General Surgery
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Orthopedics
  • Patient Preference / statistics & numerical data*
  • Physician-Patient Relations*
  • Religion*
  • Sex Factors
  • Spirituality*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires*