In the evolving medical world where health care providers are growing disenchanted by managed care, advanced technology and a decreased sense of trust from their patients, a spiritual crisis is looming. “Many physicians and nurses do a good job of bandaging wounds, but has the oil of their professional compassion dried up? To set bandages is wonderful, but it is not enough,” said the Rev. Daniel Sulmasy, O.F.M., a medical doctor at Saint Vincent’s Hospital and a keynote speaker at Fordham’s Sept. 23 conference “Is There a Healer in the House?”
The conference, co-sponsored by the Graduate School of Religion and Religious Education and organized by Beverly Musgrave, Ph.D., explored the relationship between healing and spirituality. It featured workshops presented by clergy, psychologists and health care professionals on healing in the face of suffering, the impact of illness on family relationships and using scripture as a strengthening resource. Sulmasy urged conference participants to draw from their own suffering to conjure up the compassion and the desire to heal that called them to their professions. “There is no suffering worse than suffering alone,” said Sulmasy, who holds the Sisters of Charity Chair of Ethics at the hospital. “That’s why it is important to be with our patients.
Compassion means being there and feeling with the patient.” All of the day’s workshops echoed the themes of serving as a wounded healer and how to effectively allow the sick to share their pain with their healer. Musgrave, a pastoral psychotherapist and assistant professor, is the co-director of the masters program in Pastoral Counseling and Spiritual Care, which promotes an interdisciplinary approach to health care. Musgrave, who suffered a near-fatal heart virus 11 years ago, said it was a combination of medical care, therapy and family support that spurred her recovery. Through her experience, she discovered the need for a program that combined all of these elements to serve the sick and she started Partners in Healing, a non-credit certificate program at Fordham.