Title: My Health, My Faith, My Culture: A guide for healthcare practitioners
Author: Sue Timmins
Publisher: M&K Publishing, 2012
Reviewer: Renée Francis, senior lecturer in learning disability nursing, London South Bank University
What was it like?
In My Health, My Faith, My Culture, Sue Timmins provides a strong argument for the importance of considering patients’ religious beliefs and practices when providing care. The book is divided into two sections. The first provides an introduction and background to the relationship between health, culture and faith and outlines key areas to consider during a healthcare consultation. The second part of the book focuses on major world religions and outlines key areas such as basic principles, diet, potential issues related to clinical interventions and matters surrounding births and deaths. The book has arisen from the author’s original research from 2000, and this perhaps makes some of the background information feel dated. For example, a significant number of sources in the reference list date from before 2000.
What were the highlights?
The author’s aim in writing the book is to assist healthcare practitioners at all levels to provide services that are sensitive to patients’ cultural and religious needs and wishes. The information about major world religions is presented in a simple and accessible way, which will help healthcare practitioners to access information about unfamiliar faiths quickly. This section could benefit from information about how to address religious leaders if the practitioner needs to contact them. Information about how the various faith groups view health, illness and disability would also be useful. Although understanding views of illness may not impact directly on care in the same way that, for example, knowing after-death rituals would, this understanding can give healthcare practitioners insight as to how the patient and family or carers will interpret their condition and treatment, which may impact upon their management.
Strengths & weaknesses:
Sue Timmins rightly points out that each individual will observe the requirements of their religion in their own way. It is therefore important to be able to discuss any individual wishes with patients. Although the author gives a list of questions to be considered before and during consultations, it would have been helpful to explore in a bit more depth how to have this conversation. While patients would welcome someone taking an interest in their faith, practitioners may be afraid of causing offence.
Who should read it?
My Health, My Faith, My Culture would be useful to nursing students and to any nurse or healthcare assistant who is supporting someone from an unfamiliar faith group for the first time.