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E Palmer Kelly, JM Hyer, TM Pawlik
The Ohio State University

While there is increasing interest in the role of religion and spirituality (R&S) within the patient-provider oncologic encounter, less is understood about spiritual motivations that may lead providers to practice medicine. We sought to determine the relationship between intrinsic religiosity, religious identity, provider role and spiritual motivations to practice medicine.

A cross-sectional R&S survey was administered to healthcare providers at a large Comprehensive Cancer Center in the Midwest. Provider type (physician vs. nurse vs. “other”), levels of intrinsic religiosity (extent to which individuals embrace religion as the “master motive” that guides and gives meaning to their life), religious identity (religious vs. not religious/just spiritual/neither) and spiritual motivations to practice medicine were assessed. Provider beliefs that a deep responsibility to reduce pain and suffering, the practice of medicine is a calling, and religious/spiritual beliefs influence their practice of medicine were examined and analyzed using binary logistic regression.

Among 340 participants, most participants were female (82.1%) and Caucasian (82.6%); median age was 35 years (IQR: 31-48). Providers included nurses (64.7%), physicians (17.9%), and “other” providers (17.4%). Most respondents identified as religious (57.5%), while a subset (42.5%) did not identify as religious. Spiritual motivations to practice medicine varied among individuals based on provider type, intrinsic religiosity, and religious identity. Compared with physicians, nurses were less likely to agree that they felt responsible to reduce pain and suffering in the world (OR: 0.12;p=.032). “Other” providers were less likely than physicians to believe that the practice of medicine was a calling (OR: 0.28;p=0.016). In contrast, providers with high self-reported intrinsic religiosity demonstrated much greater likelihood to think that medicine is a calling (OR: 1.75;p=0.001), as well as believe that personal R&S beliefs influence the practice of medicine (OR: 3.57;p<0.001). Provider religious identity was not associated with spiritual motivations to practice medicine(Table).

While provider role was related to spiritual motivations to practice medicine, intrinsic religiosity had the greatest impact; however, specific religious identity did not impact motivation to practice medicine. Understanding providers’ spiritual motivations to practice medicine may inform interventions to improve patient-centered spiritual care to cancer patients.

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