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South Med J. 2015 Mar;108(3):189-95. doi: 10.14423/SMJ.0000000000000250.

Religion, sense of calling, and the practice of medicine: findings from a national survey of primary care physicians and psychiatrists.

Author information

1
From the Department of Medicine, Section of Hospital Medicine, University of Chicago, Chicago, Illinois, the University of California School of Medicine, Irvine, the Feinberg School of Medicine, Northwestern University, Chicago, Illinois, and the Trent Center for Bioethics, Humanities, and History of Medicine, Duke University, Durham, North Carolina.

Abstract

OBJECTIVES:

A sense of calling is a concept with religious and theological roots; however, it is unclear whether contemporary physicians in the United States still embrace this concept in their practice of medicine. This study assesses the association between religious characteristics and endorsing a sense of calling among practicing primary care physicians (PCPs) and psychiatrists.

METHODS:

In 2009, we surveyed a stratified random sample of 2016 PCPs and psychiatrists in the United States. Physicians were asked whether they agreed with the statement, "For me, the practice of medicine is a calling." Primary predictors included demographic and self-reported religious characteristics, (eg, attendance, affiliation, importance of religion, intrinsic religiosity) and spirituality.

RESULTS:

Among eligible respondents, the response rate was 63% (896/1427) for PCPs and 64% (312/487) for psychiatrists. A total of 40% of PCPs and 42% of psychiatrists endorsed a strong sense of calling. PCPs and psychiatrists who were more spiritual and/or religious as assessed by all four measures were more likely to report a strong sense of calling in the practice of medicine. Nearly half of Muslim (46%) and Catholic (45%) PCPs and the majority of evangelical Protestant PCPs (60%) report a strong sense of calling in their practice, and PCPs with these affiliations were more likely to endorse a strong sense of calling than those with no affiliation (26%, bivariate P < 0.001). We found similar trends for psychiatrists.

CONCLUSIONS:

In this national study of PCPs and psychiatrists, we found that PCPs who considered themselves religious were more likely to report a strong sense of calling in the practice of medicine. Although this cross-sectional study cannot be used to make definitive causal inferences between religion and developing a strong sense of calling, PCPs who considered themselves religious are more likely to embrace the concept of calling in their practice of medicine.

PMID:
25772054
PMCID:
PMC4452021
DOI:
10.14423/SMJ.0000000000000250
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article

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