Objectives: To determine whether the religious beliefs and behaviors of family medicine outpatients differed from those of their physicians and whether patients' religiousness affects their expectations of their physicians regarding religious matters.
Design: A survey study was performed on a consecutive sample of 380 family medicine clinic outpatients and 31 family medicine faculty and residents in 2 family medicine residency programs.
Setting and subjects: Outpatients were recruited from an outpatient clinic of a family medicine residency program in North Carolina. Family medicine physicians and residents were recruited from this program and another in Texas.
Main outcome measures: Scores were obtained from the Springfield Religiosity Scale, the Hoge Intrinsic Religiosity Scale, and a religious beliefs questionnaire designed for this study.
Results: Absence of religious affiliation was more common for physicians than patients. Physicians were less likely than patients to pray privately and less likely to hold intrinsic religious attitudes. Patients were more likely than physicians to be interested in their own physician's religious beliefs, more likely to feel that they should know their physician's religious beliefs, and more likely to want their physician to pray with them under certain circumstances. When sex and age were controlled, some of these differences disappeared. When compared with patients, physicians tended to be younger and male--characteristics inversely associated with religious belief and practice. Regardless of sex or age, however, the more religious the patients, the more likely the desire to know their physician's religious beliefs and share their own religious beliefs.
Conclusions: Patients are more involved in religious beliefs and practices than physicians, a finding partially explained by age and sex. The more religious the patients, the more important it is for them to know their physician's beliefs, share their beliefs with their physician, and want their physicians to pray with them.