What Motivates Extraordinary Christian Physicians?

The future of medicine is not bright as it once was. As of 2022, one in five physicians are leaving medicine, a field many considered more than just a job. Now, the sense of calling seems dim. In fact, national studies show that fifty percent of medical providers are experiencing burnout. Furthermore, more physicians—as well as those in training—are opening up about the harsh realities that hinder them from providing the most compassionate, optimal care. This is the reality of a healthcare system that privileges the ability to pay over patient needs and suffers from perpetually increasing costs, socioeconomic and racial inequities, and lack of access to advanced therapies. These larger dehumanizing forces that exist outside of the average medical provider’s control are what the Balbonis call “hostile powers” in their book Hostility to Hospitality: Spirituality and Professional Socialization within Medicine. The question of going beyond the call of duty as Christian physicians may seem naïve, too idealistic, and even irrelevant. In fact, those that learn of exceptional and extraordinary moments in Christian history often consider it impossible to replicate in their own context, dismissing the principal actors as virtually unattainable moral heroes. 

This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at https://spectrummagazine.org/views/2023/what-motivates-extraordinary-christian-physicians

Thank you, Yuna, for this reminder of the motivation for those of us who work in health.

Even though I don’t wear my Christianity on my sleeve, my patients often refer to it. My patients value Christianity in my work, whether they identify as Christian or not. Some even tell me that they sought me out because I am an Adventist doctor. Again, not advertised! (And Adventist health is not well known in Australia.)

Treating clergy of other denominations is quite rewarding. There is a sense of professional comradery that transcends doctrinal differences.

The preferential treatment for the poor you mentioned is powerful. Palpable relief comes when someone has been pushing against the system, and you find a way for them to access effective treatment.

You’re correct. It’s the ‘ordinary’ that is most significant. Everyone is vulnerable when they are sick. Being able to listen and explain are as important therapeutic tools as surgery and pharmaceuticals.

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