The religious traditions of different patients and their families affect their understanding and application in the modern health care context. Health care providers should have an understanding and appreciation of the diverse religious beliefs preferences of their patients for optimal care provision. There is a mixture of many different religious groups in the country that requires knowledge of different health practices. Nurses, physicians and chaplains who are associated with hospices and hospitals frequently encounter with a diverse group of patients with acute, terminal or chronic medical conditions who require necessary contact with the health care system. A significant aspect of health care is the role of care providers in understanding the concerns of their patients. They are also responsible for communicating these concerns to all the decision makers involved, consoling and comforting the patients and their families to accept disease states as well as taking care of the needs of the families beyond the medical aspects. Some of the primary principles used by the different ethicists include sanctity of life, preservation of the patient's faith and respect for patient autonomy while achieving medical treatment without patient harm. This also includes the alleviation of suffering and honesty as well as truthfulness in giving patient information. The paper highlights the points health care providers are expected to consider when caring for patients from the Sikh, Buddhists and Native American religious traditions. Health providers should encourage patients and family members to interpret the cultural and religious values pertinent to a hospital stay which regard personal needs, decisions on treatment and interaction with staff.
Compare and Contrast the Different Belief Systems
Sikhism originated in the northern Indian city of Punjab during the 16th century. Guru Nanak, its founder drew features from Hinduism and Islam for the establishment of the reformist movement to create a new world order based on social justice and equality. The Sikhs have a fundamental belief of the existence of only One, Timeless, Universal and Formless God, who is the creator of all the living beings and the universe. Sikhism is based on selfless service to humanity and functionality (Balbir, 2002).
Sikhism respects the sanctity of life and regards the human life as the highest form. They have a distinct set of health care beliefs and practices. A blood transfusion is for instance allowed, and maintenance of a terminally ill patient on an artificial life support especially for a prolonged period is not allowed. Euthanasia and the support of suicide victims is not allowed. However, it allows the receiving and donating of organ transplants, autopsy, artificial technologies on reproduction and genetic engineering. On the other hand, Sikhs are opposed to abortion, human cloning, and the circumcision of male infants (Balbir, 2002).
Nurses and health care providers are often expected not to disturb the five symbols of the Sikhism faith also referred to as the five K's before washing hands and seeking for permission. These are their symbolic dress codes and include Kesh for uncut hair to symbolize nature loving disposition and saintly qualities. Kangha, a small wooden comb used to symbolize cleanliness, a steel bangle called Kara worn on the right wrist to symbolize restraint and strength. The Kirpan is a short dagger or sword to represent the right to the defense of the week and the destruction of evil and Kaccha which are unisex undershorts represent sexual morality and chastity. It is preferable for initiated Sikhs not to remove any of these items when hospitalized unless completely necessary since they are mandatory symbols (Balbir, 2002). Most of the ordinary Sikhs however, maintain only Kara and Kesh with other third-generation Sikhs opting for the western style of having their haircut short.
The Buddhist religion similarly has its own sets of religious beliefs and health care practices. In the holistic perspective of the Buddhists, diseases are usually perceived as the expression of a disturbance of life as whole. It emphasizes on the conclusion of the kammic cause of disease and health implications in different individuals. Buddhism believes that individuals have a responsibility for their own health and that illness according to karma is because of past choices in life. Followers are advised to maintain good health by continuing their personal efforts in life through good deeds like proper nutrition and regular exercise regimes. Buddhism similarly has a strong emphasis on the significance of mindfulness which explains the need for most patients for quiet and peace to allow for constant meditation. There are some Buddhists who express strong religious concerns on modesty during treatments for instance, on cases of treatment from someone of the opposite sex (Kusala, 2004). Others are often strict vegetarians and never consume any food from animals like meat, and other by-products, medications from animals are a concern for such patients.
The use of analgesics is similarly of major significance to Buddhists. This is because of their tradition of awareness on all of life's experience. The fact that their awareness is clouded form analgesics raises their concerns on pain medications (Kusala, 2004). Health care providers and clinicians are expected to be duly specific on the use of drugs that affect their patient’s awareness. However, there is a lot of emphasis from the medical fraternity on the usefulness of moderate use of analgesics to enable patients struggling with pain to achieve increased mindfulness and concentration. However, Buddhists find options of non-pharmacological treatments for pain management more attractive (Kusala, 2004). This explains the numerous cases of instances when some Buddhists patients refuse analgesics. This when closely examined, goes against their interests and strong beliefs of averting suffering, mainly because of a much stronger need for mental alertness and clarity of thoughts.
For the Native Americans, ritual medicine and healing is of great significance in their religion. It is important to understand their concept of health, as opposed to the western medicine. Most of the cultures of Native Americans understand illnesses as a sign of disorders in the world reflected in individuals and not from some physiological, biochemical, physiological or psychological malady. Their diagnosis procedures often entail the discerning of the status of the society and healing encompasses the restructuring and repairing of the environmental concerns. This traditional belief of illness stemming from spiritual problems raises concerns on the significance of the restoration of balance and the goal of healing practices for the societal and individual wholeness, spiritual and physical health (Atwood 1991). These healing practices and beliefs vary for the different more than 500 Native American tribes. Most of their sacred traditions are maintained through secrecy and are handed on from one generational healer to the next.
The Native Americans have an extensive knowledge of rituals, herbs and other botanical substances. These are often their most common forms of healing and include tinctures, teas and salves. The bark of the Willow tree is for instance used as a remedy for pain since it contains cetylsalicylic acid, an active ingredient in aspirin. There has not been a complete evaluation of most of the other botanical and herbal remedies to assess their potential interactions with foods, medications or dietary supplements and hence an incomplete analysis on their adverse effects and interactions.
The cleansing and purification of the body are some of their other significant healing techniques. These include applications in the elimination of sweat lodges that are darkened enclosures heated with fire from stones and special teas used to induce vomiting. Smudging, which involves the cleansing of people or places using smoke from sacred plants helps to produce altered states of sensitivity and consciousness. This ensures that patients are more open to the healing techniques. Some healers invoke the healing powers of different spirits through special rituals in cases of illnesses believed to originate from angry spirits (Atwood, 1991).
Although none of these techniques are usually proven to cure diseases, it usually helps individuals to reduce stress and pain and therefore improving the quality of life. Furthermore, the spiritual and communal support through the rituals, prayers and meditation help to calm and reduce pain.
The practices, beliefs and religious factors of different religions exert significant influence to the contemporary medicine practices and treatments (Atwood, 1991). To manage these diverse patients, there is a need for healthcare practitioners to respect, understand, and demonstrate sensitivity toward these varied beliefs and values and their implications on current clinical practices. This needs an appreciation of different traditional and religious remedies and their significant role of the holistic approach to healthcare.
The Christian values of courage, sharing, generosity and respect for elders and obedience to the law, kindness, love, forgiveness and care and concern for neighbors from the study are replicated in all of the religions mentioned. These are usually important for the guidance of followers and the provision of moral directions. Christianity just like Buddhism and Sikhism as well as the Native American religions attaches a strong belief in the importance of faith healing. Christians, as well as the mentioned religions, find themselves increasing their dependency on religious symbols and faith when ill. The significance of religion in wellness and health can therefore not be underestimated.
Nurses therefore need to know how to well prepare patients for medical and nursing procedures. For the Sikhs, nurses should for instance, consider taping and padding a patient's Kara rather instructing the patients to remove it. For the Buddhists who are used to quiet environments for meditations, proper arrangements can be made. Nurses should generally enquire with their patients before performing any medical administrations.
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