Fondazione Zoé

The difficulties of social changes project on the patient-professional relationship.

In a professional context like that of the health sector, where the interaction between user and professional is perhaps the most intimate ever created and has indeed become an unquestionable and fundamental part of the therapeutic process, it is necessary to reflect impartially and in depth on what are, in practice, the difficulties which these social changes project on the patient-professional relationship.
I have already spoken about the necessary need for a foreign patient for security and communication, now I would like to focus on the needs of a patient who is from outside the professional’s socio-cultural context: the need to express one’s religion, the need for personale hygiene and the need for nutrition.  

The need to express one’s religion – Without a doubt, there is a close relationship between somatic and spiritual suffering. Because of this, it is necessary not to undervalue the specific role of religion to the patient in a care process for people from different cultures. In taking this step forward in understanding the patient, we must not forget that the patient’s approach to religious life may be very differenet to the dominant model in our culture. A typical example is religion in some African countries where they take part in collective liturgy, where prayer is recited as a group and is accompanied by group singing. This behaviour may create difficulties for the health professionals and those sharing a room with the patient. The most common course of action is to prohibit or contain this free possibility to express one’s religious sentiments, where this causes inconvenience, but this can only complicate the patient/professional relationship and raise a barrier between them which puts the compliance of the patient at risk.

The need for personal hygiene – Personal hygiene practice certainly constitute a moment of intimate interaction between the patient and the professional. In some cases, however, those who have cultural orientations which have been strongly conditioned by a strong sense of reservedness, it is difficult for a patient to accept the intrusion of a stranger into their personal space, leading to reactions which can be intpreted by the professional as hostile. Clarifying the patient’s limits and the mandatory necessities of the care process can help to find a point of compromise between the two parties and can help avoid dangerous misunderstandings which could damage the necessary relationship of trust and guarantee quality of service.

The need for nutrition – The diet of a hospitalised subject undergoes habitual changes which correlate to the illness which the patient is suffering from. In the case of an individual who is part a cultural context which is profoundly different to the West, they may also follow dietary restrictions which correlate to religious belief or the person’s cultural habits. Failure of those helping the patient to provide the possibility to orientate or modify the food available to meet these needs can lead to refusal of food on the part of the patient, with obvious repercussions for their medical condition.



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