“So God created man is his image, in the image of God he created him.”(Genesis 1:26). Like God, humans are also composed of 3 separate entities (but lower level), namely the body, mind, and spirit. When the body is sick, so too is the mind and vice versa; and perhaps, to a large extend the spirit as well. Thus, in achieving total healing of a patient, we have to treat the body symptoms of sickness using latest medical science and techniques, and at the same time, strengthening the mind and hence the spirit through spiritual food, such as love and compassion. This process to restoring health is known as holistic or integrated healing.
Traditional hospital treats only the body sickness and seldom looks into treating the mind and the spirit as well. Our mind is very susceptible to environmental conditions. “[Healing] Environments can reduce stress and anxiety, which positively affect our health in a number of ways. Neuroscience is showing that our brain and nervous, endocrine, and immune systems are constantly interacting” (Terri & Mary, 2008, The Healing Environment, para. 9). “An extensive amount of research has shown that support from family and close friends can help in healing” (Terri & Mary, 2008, Provide Access to Social Support, para. 1). This strongly suggests that, other than family and close friends, support from compassionate physicians and nurses, and a peaceful environment also can help in healing. As the result, holistic treatment of illness comes into being when some traditional hospitals are transformed into those in which love and compassionate care is the culture of the hospital. These hospitals are known as Healing Hospital.
Components of a Healing Hospital and Their Relationship with Spirituality
A good Healing Hospital is found to compose of three components: 1) A Healing Physical Environment, 2) Integration of Work Design and Technology, and 3) A Culture of Radical Loving Care (Laurie Eberst,” n.d., para 3).
- A Healing Physical Environment: A loving, compassionate aesthetically pleasing environment not only promotes healing but also helps patients and families cope with the stresses of illness (“Laurie Eberst,” n.d., para. 5).
In other words, with an environment fostering love, care, and compassion as foundation, a healing physical environment, such as noise-free, greenery, quiet, clean, and well-ventilated environment that helps patients and families cope with stresses and illness, would accelerate the healing process.
On the other hand, a noisy and confusing hospital environment might be detrimental to patient health and retard the healing of wounds (Terri & Mary, 2008, The Healing Environment, para. 9).
2.Integration of Work Design and Technology: Laurie commented that “a good Healing Hospital offers technical advancements and is able to integrate technology into a caring environment delivered by a compassionate staff” (“Laurie Eberst,” n.d., para. 14).
In Mercy Gilbert Healing Hospital, latest digital technology in radiology, pulmonary testing and cardiology, allows physicians to access test results from their office, thus expedites decision making and treatment(Laurie Eberst,” n.d., para. 11).
As almost 1/3 of nurse’s time was spent walking, nurse could spend more time with patients if facilities were designed more efficiently (Terri & Mary, 2008, Evidence for Creating a Healing Environment, para. 2).
3. A Culture of Radical Loving Care: This is indeed the most critical component of Healing Hospital. Healing Hospital does not exist if there is no culture of compassionate care and people committed to that philosophy even though there are beautiful building, artwork, gardens and technology (“Laurie Eberst,” n.d., para. 15).
Humans are most responsive to spiritual quality such as love and compassionate care. Most people would often fall sick when they are chronically deprived of love. That is why a caring environment plays a pivotal role in healing.
Ideally, one must have a Servant’s Heart in order to serve patients selflessly and passionately and have a deep commitment to the organization’s values, mission, and vision (2011).
However, running a Healing Hospital is not without obstacles. Here are some challenges of creating a healing environment in light of the barriers and complexities of the hospital environment:
- Cynicism – Not every patient and his/her family members are aware that a person is composed of body, mind, and spirit. Most patients are so used to traditional hospital treatment for a long time that it could be hard, if not impossible, to convince them of the effectiveness of Healing Hospital. It may take a lot of promotion to spread the benefits of healing environment.
- Technology and Drugs – Unless Healing Hospitals are sufficiently funded and utilizing latest medical equipment for diagnosis, they might be challenged by conventional hospitals that are strongly funded. Some holistic drugs might not be accepted by patients who are too used to conventional drugs. It is important to note that patients must not have any doubts pertaining to drugs as often their belief or faith in the physician and drugs heals them more than the drug itself.
- Failed Leadership – Like every business enterprise, good leadership is critical in creating environment conducive for achieving goals, visions, and missions. Leaders who start out the enterprise with enthusiasm and drive, and then cool off later will seriously affect the success of the entire organization.
- Bureaucracy – Creative and useful ideas or suggestion might often be rejected in red tape and bureaucracy, thus could seriously dampen the spirit of employees.
Though family and friends play an important role in helping patients to get well, physicians and nurses are more direct in healing the patients. When hospitalized, patients might see their physicians once or twice a day. But they are likely to relate to nurses almost every waking hour. Thus, it is truly critical that nurses exhibit love and compassion (or at lease put on a smiling face) in serving their patients. In other words, a culture of radical loving care is essential for promoting recovery of patients.
Given that the above-mentioned challenges could be overcome or reduced, it’s then no longer only a change of culture within the Healing Hospital, but also a systematic and lofty change of employees’ own spirit and concept or philosophy of life. When this change is exhibited as caring and compassionate action, it would become a warm light loftily shining, comforting, and helping to heal the sick or bed-ridden, much as “The LORD sustains them on their sickbed and restores them from their bed of illness”. (Psalm 41:3). And for those who manifest loving kindness towards their patients, they become like light shining before men.