Sources of wellbeing: sharpening a sociological tool for diverse populations

Undergraduate paramedics studying health sociology routinely reported that they could not see the relevance of a topic judiciously added to the curriculum by Australian universities ten years ago: spirituality. The topic aimed to help students better serve their patients through an understanding of attitudes, reactions and subtle influences on health. However, when discussions shifted to the more concrete concept of religion, students became more engaged and wrote essays which revealed a deeper understanding of ethnicity, culture, and its effect on paramedic practice. Religion had been regarded as a blunt instrument in other disciplines such as nursing and social work, which utilised spirituality as a more inclusive concept. Yet for paramedics it was religion that was the key to seeing the difference in the way some patients made decisions, grieved, expressed modesty or faced death, and how religious beliefs shaped responses to treatment and transport. Shared common knowledge of religions emanating from classroom discussions helped students find strategies for their future career. Students found no difficulty in seeing religion as a definitive element in contemporary society.

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