Healthcare Toolbox: Spiritual Referral

You’re a busy resident, fellow or doctor.  You interact with patients all day long.  Most of the time, you simply don’t have time to slow down and address their deeper concerns at any length.  In other cases, you may not feel equipped to handle the issues the patient is experiencing.  Is there anything you can do about it?

You can make a “spiritual referral.”

Spiritual referrals work similarly to the way a normal referral works.  In that case, a physician sends the patient to see another physician with more expertise in a given area.  With a spiritual referral, you suggest that your patient sees someone who can help him/her with the spiritual issues he/she is facing.

As an example, I received a call from someone who’s going through a challenging time.  A physician who knows both of us connected us in the hopes that I can help him work through some faith-related issues he’s facing.

One key to making a successful spiritual referral is having people you trust in mind, and ‘on call’, ahead of time.  Your team might include pastors, social workers, counselors, laypeople and other physicians whose walk with Christ you respect.  They should be (within reason, of course) available to you and your patients on an as-needed basis.

This is one way we can work together as Christ’s body, where, “when each part is working properly… the body grow[s] so that it builds itself up in love” (Ephesians 4:16).

Who needs to be on your spiritual referral team?


About Bryan Stoudt

On my personal website (, I help Christians follow Jesus in a noisy, broken world. I also have the privilege of helping Philadelphia's healthcare students and professionals do this as Area Director for the Christian Medical & Dental Associations (CMDA). More information at On a personal note, I'm fortunate to be married to my wonderful wife, Sharon. Together, we have four fantastic children. In my spare time, I enjoy roasting coffee, running, reading and learning foreign languages.
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