What's it like to work in faith-based healthcare?
February 16, 2021 7:28 PM   Subscribe

I'll be applying for healthcare jobs soon, and noticed quite a few hospitals in the area I'm researching refer to themselves as faith-based. What does this look like in practice?

I'm an atheist, and while I've worked with many Christians, I've never worked at an explicitly Christian organization. I also know nothing about the history of faith-based hospitals, the areas they serve, or the good/harm they've done in their communities.
Is there anything I should know about working for one?
Should I expect to be asked about my faith in the hiring process, or are there any expectations of religion?
Are they a comfortable place to work if you don't share the religion?
Is there anything I should know about the way they are structured or taxed or funded or the way they've affected other healthcare organizations?

posted by autolykos to Work & Money (9 answers total)
In my experience whether you will be asked about your faith depends on what you will be doing. Our catholic based local hospitals provide access to ministers of other religions, and have prayer space in addition to their chapels. Their mission/vision/values are specifically faith based. Depending on the denomination and which group is running them, there may be certain things they will not provide (elective abortions, for instance). If you have specific concerns around those, do some googling of your particular organization.

The faith based hospitals in the two major cities where I have lived have been by far the best in terms of wages and benefits, largely because the other large systems are for-profit. They tend to have better overall employee satisfaction (as in all employee matters your department and supervisor are really key here, but I’m just saying generally, and only in the two areas I am familiar with).
posted by dpx.mfx at 7:55 PM on February 16 [1 favorite]

I make rounds at a hospital that is in a Catholic system. It is a decent hospital, and I have never found the care for patients there to be lacking once they are admitted into the hospital. However, I have had some occasional trouble with being able to obtain appropriate services for certain patients. As expected, patients do not have access to elective abortion services - I have never been in a situation yet where the situation was non-elective and they don't offer obstetric services in that hospital (so I suppose if I was in between a rock and a hard place, I would be able to transfer to another facility). Oral contraceptives can't be written for contraception (but can be prescribed at discharge for the purposes of controlling heavy menses.

Having said that, in the last two weeks, I fought with someone on the hospital staff about fertility preservation for a patient who was newly diagnosed with cancer and needed urgent chemotherapy. Was told that it was against doctrine and wouldn't be offered, leaving a young person with the choice between discharging to do outpatient, emergent fertility preservation, or beginning lifesaving chemotherapy as soon as possible.

Because of how hospital mergers have occurred over the last few decades, a lot of hospitals have governing rules that are still dominated by whatever faith is in the original charter, even though they may operate as more for-profit after a merger. I've never felt uncomfortable as a Jew in a faith-chartered hospital. I don't know if they have fairer hiring and pay practices compared to non-faith-chartered hospitals.
posted by honeybee413 at 8:19 PM on February 16 [2 favorites]

It may be a revelation to know that Catholic hospitals were started and maintained as a mission of nuns, caring for the sick and the poor, now almost completely sidelined by men. There are entire orders whose mission was aiding the sick, Mercy Sisters, for example, who founded many hospitals. How the mighty have fallen!

In corporate hospitals power resides with the men. What began as nursing efforts by communities of religious women, poorly paid if they were paid at all, has been overtaken in the modern era by male religious overseers, who have imposed misogynistic elements justified by religious rules. No abortions, no sterilization, no contraception prescriptions allowed. No exceptions, even by affiliated physicians with off-site practices.

Measure twice.
posted by citygirl at 9:29 PM on February 16 [11 favorites]

If you are a person with a uterus, you may find yourself paying out of pocket for basic reproductive health services, like contraceptives, that would otherwise be covered by insurance, due to carve-outs in the ACA imposed by the Supreme Court.
posted by rockindata at 3:34 AM on February 17 [4 favorites]

True, rockindata. If you are a person who produces sperm I doubt permanent contraceptive procedures are allowed for you or your patients, either.
posted by citygirl at 5:35 AM on February 17

It definitely depends on your facility and the work you do. I'm a dietitian and the hospital does not interfere in any way with the work I do. If I were, say, a gynecologist though, I don't think I could bear to work for a Catholic hospital. There are definitely positions within the hospital that are themselves faith-based, and I would think the hospital has some expectations of the beliefs of the people in those positions, but generally religious hospitals have lots of people from a wide variety of religions working for them without real issue. I find working for a Catholic hospital as an atheist/ethnic Jew frustrating but not untenable most of the time. The religion is always there but I can usually tune it out. We do have ~yearly system-wide training sessions that are often basically being forced to go to church, and those are the days I seriously consider quitting. If there were a commuting-distance hospital where I could do the work I do now that wasn't religious, I would absolutely leave, and I'd even take a pay cut to work somewhere I feel more welcome, but there are no hospitals providing that level of care within several hours, so I stay. I most likely will stay at this hospital and retire from it. My hospital provides incredible medical care and genuinely does a lot of good, and I can mostly be proud to work here.

As a cis female, I am fortunate to be able to use my husband's health insurance so that I don't have Catholics in my reproductive system, but that's definitely another important consideration.
posted by obfuscation at 6:30 AM on February 17 [5 favorites]

Be aware that in addition to not providing abortion or contraception, Catholic hospitals often do not provide other evidence-based and standard reproductive health care.

(This is just one example I found)

posted by i_am_a_fiesta at 5:27 PM on February 17

Former employee at a large Catholic provider in Chicago. Can confirm the refusal to offer sterilization procedures, and inability of providers to prescribe BC for birth control; in addition, our ED wouldn’t mention emergency contraception to rape victims.We couldn’t code miscarriages as” missed abortions”; we had to use a workaround code. We were actually paid below market across the board; the bitter joke was that we were doing the Lord’s work and should consider the lower wages part of the mission. I stayed for a few years because it’s notoriously difficult for people w my job to get their foot in the door but yikes did I increase my donations to PP.
posted by jacy at 5:53 PM on February 17 [2 favorites]

While I do not work for one, I have been at at lot of meetings for faith-based healthcare systems throughout the US. From my outside POV I see a lot of women doing the work and a lot of men talking and being “in charge.” I remember the first time I was working one of these and all of a sudden at the start of the day someone broke out into an invocation and I wondered how people of other faiths felt about that at their workplace. As an atheist that sort of thing would wear on me. At one meeting a younger staffer brought up that we don’t talk about how the religion is forced onto them, more or less, which is weird in this day and age and nobody said anything. Everyone was silent. I would guess that staffer wasn’t going to stay long in that culture that ignores the problem.
posted by Bunglegirl at 8:14 PM on February 17 [1 favorite]

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