The medical community has reached a very important nexus in terms of providing care to the injured and infirm that find themselves in a hospital environment. The so-called Healing Hospital represents a radical shift from the traditional view of the role and function of a hospital or clinic in making an individual well. A contemporary hospital, when admitting a patient, will focus will laser intensity on what is “wrong” with them. That is to say, the entirety of their treatment is aimed at eradicating that which is ailing them. This is model that has served the medical community since the advent of modern health care. There a recent school of thought, however, that argues that it is no longer sufficient to simply treat a disease or injury. The so-named Healing Hospital Paradigm posits that true medicine ought to focus beyond the ailment and adopt a more “holistic” approach to making a person well.
According to Carolyn Ross, M.D., healing is defined not just as a removal of disease but as a return to “wholeness” (Ross 2011). A Healing Hospital, then, endeavors to treat not only the complaint of the patient but their entire physical, mental and spiritual well-being. According to the proper application of this paradigm, then and only then can an individual be considered whole, as Dr. Ross would argue. As mention above, the Healing Hospital Paradigm sits upon a tripod of components. The first of these is the body (or physical) piece: which includes but it not at all limited to the original complaint that brought the patient to the hospital in the first place.
Obviously, the healing hospital must effort towards to removal or disease or repair of injury, but once that segment of treatment is complete, the Healing Hospital would then address (in detail) the physical conditions that led the patient to the hospital visit. For example, a patient admitted with complaints that result from a complication of heart disease would (upon treatment for the disease itself) engage in a comprehensive examination and overall of their lifestyle, i.e. nutrition and activity levels. This ensures that they are returned to “wholeness” by addressing risk factors to their physical health and educating the patient on what a The Healing Hospital – A Daring Paradigm 3 healthy and whole lifestyle looks like.
The second tier of a Health Hospital’s approach to treatment is that of a patient’s mental condition. Dr. Ross, in Real Healing, offers the example of a patient being treated for depression or other mental issue emerging from a successful treatment only to find a host of external issues that may threaten their mental well-being. A Healing Hospital approach to this issue would find the patient not only being treated for their mental disturbance but also receiving on-going, comprehensive therapy and education. This not only greatly reduces the chance that a patient may relapse and find themselves back in the hospital but also contributes to making them “whole” by giving them the tools to address the catalysts for episodes and aids them in functioning “normally” within society without issue or incident.
The final and likely most important tier of the Healing Hospital approach is that of spiritual health. Spiritual healing is more difficult to classify than that of the body or mind, in that it is, at its very core, far more abstract that the other two. However, spiritual wholeness is just as important as physical or mental wholeness. Questions of spirituality guide and frame a person’s entire life and have profound effects on their physical and mental health. In 2008, the Southhampton General Hospital Department of Oncology performed a study on the effect of spiritual healing exercises on patient’s suffering from cancer. While the study was performed in a “traditional hospital” (i.e. the spiritual healing component was originally designed to simply augment typical cancer treatment), the researchers noted profound improvement (through patient interviews) in the physical and mental well being of the individuals who participated in the spiritual healing exercises versus those in the control group who did not (Barlow, Lewith, Walker 2008). The advantage of spiritual healing is that it is not simply limited to prayer or worship. As spirituality is unique to each person, a complete course of spiritual healing can be individually tailored to a person’s specific beliefs and needs.
The Healing Hospital – A Daring Paradigm 4
Despite the obvious and tested advantages of the healing hospital paradigm, there are still significant barriers and obstacles to wholesale implementation. The first and foremost is the absolute complexity of a typical hospital environment. A typical hospital, even one with significant trauma traffic, is a monolithic behemoth in terms of bureaucracy and structure. In order to implement a radical paradigm shift, the mindset and attitude of the entire hospital would require adjustment. This means administration, physicians, nurses, technicians and other staff would need to be “on board” with a fundamental alteration of a current practice and ideology, which would have been ingrained over decades of practice and repetition. Such change would not happen quickly and would almost certainly be met with resistance from staff members. Nevertheless, the advantages of the healing hospital paradigm would become evident (and encourage further adoption) once the new practices could generate results based evidence. For example, many hospitals (even more “traditional” ones) now include spiritual and “whole health” approaches to treatment of terminal illnesses such as cancer.
Another obstacle to implementation of the Healing Hospital Paradigm is that it’s strongest component (that of spiritual health) is also a double-edged sword. Due to the fact that spirituality is so widely varied among the populace, it will be difficult to implement a single program. What is effective and “true” for one patient might be a completely ineffective (or even harmful) to another. Differences in belief structures (even within the same religions and sects) further complicate the implementation of a spiritual health program. Tailoring individual courses of “spiritual” treatment would almost certainly be necessary. However, although these methods would be time consuming, their benefit to patient “wholeness” is clear and would, in time, reduce traffic through the hospital by reducing recidivism and contributing to overall community health.
The theme of “whole” healing is prevalent throughout the Bible: it frequently references the miracles of Christ, the necessity of having a deep spirituality to becoming “whole” and the figures The Healing Hospital – A Daring Paradigm 5 within the Old Testament who healed and cared for the elderly and infirm (I.e, the story of the Good Samaritan). However, one verse in particular is especially relevant to the paradigm of whole healing. In chapter 5, verse 10 of the first book of Peter, the passage reads: “But the God of all grace, who hath called us unto eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after that ye hath suffered a while, makes you perfect, establish, strengthen and settle you.”
This passage makes one of the most compelling arguments for the whole healing approach of a Healing Hospital. Here, Peter makes reference to being made perfect and settled and the holistic approach of a Healing Hospital seeks to accomplish much the same. Using spiritual health as a conduit, the body and mind are strengthened and the “whole health” of the patient is made perfect.