Moore, who now lives in New Hampshire, has written numerous books on spirituality and lectures widely on holistic medicine, spirituality, psychotherapy, and the arts. He has a Ph. D. in religion from Syracuse University, an honorary doctorate from Lesley University and the Humanitarian Award from Einstein
Medical School of Yeshiva University. In his latest book, “Care of the Soul in Medicine,” he shares his vision for improving health care by “healing a
person rather than simply treating a body.” He recently discussed some of his compelling ideas for achieving it.
Moore asks what the patient first experiences when they enter a healthcare building. Does it feel like the entrance to a medical labyrinth, with glass barriers
separating patients from staff? Or is it an atmosphere of vision and detail that reaches out to comfort the patient’s soul? “We fail to value beauty and style these days,” he says, noting the dwindling importance of the arts in our society. “The soul responds to symbols and ritual images – these can be easily articulated in health care through the use of artwork, flowing water, gardens, aromas, appealing (“soulful”) food, and a quiet environment.
"Hospitals need to be beautiful and comforting as
well as functional,” he continues. “One of the chief problems for patients being admitted to the hospital is leaving the comfort and familiarity of home, as well as proximity to family members,” he says. “I often recommend to hospitals that they try to bridge the gap by making the hospital experience more like home. In illness, small things matter a great deal.”
While researching his book, Moore met with doctors and nurses in a variety of settings, from medical schools to inner city emergency departments. He
understands the demands of education, technology, and the daily stress of healthcare settings. Sharing stories from his own personal and professional life, he calls upon health care providers to better understand their own psychological makeup as one way to improve their relationships with patients and colleagues.
“Is medicine a job or a calling” he asks, stating his belief that the foundation of medical practice is service to humanity. His research found that among
medical doctors, the happiest are family physicians. “Doctors who practice family medicine say that they like treating people over the course of their lives and getting to know families, not just individuals.” He explains, “If you think of medicine primarily as care rather than as treatment, you can appreciate the value of dealing with families.”
Moore sees integrative medicine as a natural doorway for allowing soul and spirit into the medical world. Collaborations like the one between Evergreen Institute for Wellness and Memorial Hospital offer a beginning point for development of true partnerships.
“Integrative medicine often involves a group of
services that are adjunct to the usual Western treatments,” he explains. “Massage, acupuncture, hypnotherapy, yoga, meditation, creative and expressive arts – all of these can be useful and successful,” Moore says. “But I envision integrative medicine going beyond a list of services. I hope to see the day soon when a patient can get a comprehensive analysis of his problem and a range
of treatments that are truly integrated.”
Moore thinks several current trends may be helpful in moving medicine toward a better, more “soulful” future. Growth in the aging population, technology, and hospice services mean more people receive care in their homes. “When the treatment takes place at home, the patient has a chance to heal or to die in a context of life as it has been rather than in the more
impersonal environment of a hospital,” he says. “Clearly, that is a more soulful situation.”
In many settings, nurses and nurse practitioners are providing a greater amount of patient care. Writing that nurses “have a special calling,” Moore focuses
on the importance of care as part of healing, not just
treatment. “Nurses have a long tradition of caring for people and their families,” he says, “and not being so focused on the technology of healing. Nurses are motivated by an attitude of care; doctors with an attitude of technical treatment. I would like to see the doctors shift a bit, still enjoying their competency for treatment while taking a more serious caring approach to patients.”
He offers healing guidance for patients and families as they navigate the existing health care culture. “I recommend that patients assert themselves and present themselves as individuals,” he says. “Some caregivers might be put off by this, hoping for a more compliant patient. But I think we are better served by
educating our caregivers, letting them know how important it is to be treated as an individual and as a person,” he says. He encourages people to take
an active part in healing and to view serous illness as a transition – a positive passage to new awareness.
The extent to which healing and attitude are linked isn’t fully understood, but Moore gives advice to both providers and patients for maintaining dignity and humanity. “Science has advanced, but not the philosophical and spiritual aspects of healing,” he says. “It’s difficult to deal with disease in a
holistic manner today as we move in the opposite direction, toward more specialization and impersonal science-dominated care.” Evidence-based
medicine is reasonable, he says, “but where is the soul?”