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South Med J. 2001 Apr;94(4):374-9.

Religion in the clinic: the role of physician beliefs.

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Department of Psychiatry, Saint Louis University School of Medicine, MO 63104, USA.



Although studies have identified physician beliefs that may cause them to avoid spiritual topics in the clinic (eg, lack of time), it is unknown to what extent these beliefs predict behavior. The purpose of the present study was to identify physician beliefs about religion and medicine that predict attention to religious issues in the clinic.


The study was cross-sectional and correlational. Seventy-eight physicians completed a self-report survey of religious behavior in the clinic and beliefs about religion and medicine.


Most physicians do not initiate religious discussions with patients, though a majority accept a link between religion and health. Physician personal discomfort with addressing religious topics was the sole multivariate predictor of clinical religious behavior. Time, role definition, health relevance of religion, and physician religiousness were not significant predictors.


Avoidance of religion in the clinic may be primarily belief-based. Future research is needed to examine the role of medical education in creating and/or maintaining these beliefs.

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