A spirituality and medicine elective for senior medical students: 4 years' experience, evaluation, and expansion to the family medicine residency

Fam Med. 2007 May;39(5):313-5.


Background: Evidence suggests that spirituality is important in patient care and medical education, yet there are few reports of spirituality and medicine curricular evaluation.

Methods: We developed, implemented, and evaluated a 17-hour elective on spirituality and patient care for 4 consecutive years. We presented the elective to 10 fourth-year medical students (MS4s) in years one and two and to eight MS4s and 15 residents, faculty, and staff in years three and four. We evaluated knowledge and skills using pre-course and post-course questionnaires and written cases and learner satisfaction using course evaluations.

Results: Students' knowledge improved on the evidence about spirituality, clinical resources, role of chaplains, approaches to patient care, and recognizing spiritual distress. Reported course strengths included diversity of topics and instructors, universal principles, small-group format, case discussions, and opportunity for self-reflection. Comments reflected enhanced value in the "meaning in medicine" and "whole person care."

Conclusions: Senior medical students rated the elective positively and increased their knowledge of spirituality and medicine. It was also positively received by residents, faculty, and staff and paved the way for residency curricula in this subject.

MeSH terms

  • Attitude of Health Personnel
  • Catholicism
  • Clinical Clerkship / methods*
  • Clinical Competence
  • Curriculum
  • Family Practice / education*
  • Hinduism
  • Humans
  • Internship and Residency / methods*
  • New York
  • Pastoral Care / education*
  • Program Development
  • Program Evaluation
  • Rhode Island
  • Schools, Medical
  • Spirituality*
  • Students, Medical / psychology