Greensboro's African American Community Newspaper since 1967

Patients and Prayer


There are many aspects of life that enter into the patient/ healthcare provider relationship. If it is a new relationship you both are “sniffing” each other out. You both want to make a favorable impression on each other. So most times your best behavior is on display. Though some patients may feel that initial interview is too extensive, that information is helpful in learning who you are and how to best care for you.

In well established relationships, in addition to taking care of the medical problem, your healthcare provider may ask or you may volunteer information on life situations such as an ill mother or how a child is doing in college. Has a line been crossed here? Is it okay to have these non-medical conversations? Does it help the patient/healthcare provider relationship? It depends on the patient and how they view their healthcare provider.

How would you feel if your healthcare provider wanted to pray with you? Usually there is a line of demarcation between religion and medicine. Has a line been crossed here? In recent studies conducted at Harvard University by Dr. Michael Balboni and his wife, Dr. Traci Balboni, it has been found that most patients would welcome prayer from their healthcare provider especially in times of severe illness. Most patients stated that they would find it supportive in these times of crisis.

This though can present a slippery slope. Who should initiate the prayer? What if that particular patient or healthcare provider is not religious or has a different religion? Does it harm the health provider/patient relationship here? Does prayer when both want it open doors of understanding and trust between the patient, family and the healthcare provider?

What happens if that prayer is not answered and that person dies, or the surgery is not successful or the chemo failed and the cancer returns? Does that harm the healthcare provider/patient relationship?

Prayer is indeed a simple act. That simple act of praying though carries a lot of responsibilities. It should be mutually entered in to with each person respecting the rights of the patient or the patient’s family and healthcare provider. Each should have the right to abstain or join in.

For some patients, prayer can be therapeutic and aide in the process of healing. For others, it does not carry that glow or positive feeling. Each person has the right to enter or not enter in to it.

Dr. Veita Bland is a board certified Greensboro physician and hypertension specialist. Dr. Bland’s radio show, “It’s a Matter of Your Health,” can be heard live on Wednesdays, 5:30 p.m. on N.C. A&T State University’s WNAA, 90.1 FM. Listeners may call in and ask questions. The show is replayed on Sirius 142 at 5 p.m. on Wednesdays. Email Dr. Bland at