Toward competency-based curricula in patient-centered spiritual care: recommended competencies for family medicine resident education

Acad Med. 2010 Dec;85(12):1897-904. doi: 10.1097/ACM.0b013e3181fa2dd1.


Spiritual care is increasingly recognized as an important component of medical care. Although many primary care residency programs incorporate spiritual care into their curricula, there are currently no consensus guidelines regarding core competencies necessary for primary care training. In 2006, the Society of Teachers of Family Medicine's Interest Group on Spirituality undertook a three-year initiative to address this need. The project leader assembled a diverse panel of eight educators with dual expertise in (1) spirituality and health and (2) family medicine. The multidisciplinary panel members represented different geographic regions and diverse faith traditions and were nationally recognized senior faculty. They underwent three rounds of a modified Delphi technique to achieve initial consensus regarding spiritual care competencies (SCCs) tailored for family medicine residency training, followed by an iterative process of external validation, feedback, and consensus modifications of the SCCs. Panel members identified six knowledge, nine skills, and four attitude core SCCs for use in training and linked these to competencies of the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education. They identified three global competencies for use in promotion and graduation criteria. Defining core competencies in spiritual care clarifies training goals and provides the basis for robust curricula evaluation. Given the breadth of family medicine, these competencies may be adaptable to other primary care fields, to medical and surgical specialties, and to medical student education. Effective training in this area may enhance physicians' ability to attend to the physical, mental, and spiritual needs of patients and better maintain sustainable healing relationships.

MeSH terms

  • Clinical Competence*
  • Humans
  • Internship and Residency / methods*
  • Patient-Centered Care / standards*
  • Problem-Based Learning / methods*
  • Spiritual Therapies / education
  • Spiritual Therapies / standards*
  • United States