Chaplains on the Medical Team: A Qualitative Analysis of an Interprofessional Curriculum for Internal Medicine Residents and Chaplain Interns

J Relig Health. 2016 Apr;55(2):560-71. doi: 10.1007/s10943-015-0158-7.


Improved collaboration between physicians and chaplains has the potential to improve patient experiences. To better understand the benefits and challenges of learning together, the authors conducted several focus groups with participants in an interprofessional curriculum that partnered internal medicine residents with chaplain interns in the clinical setting. The authors derived four major qualitative themes from the transcripts: (1) physician learners became aware of effective communication skills for addressing spirituality. (2) Chaplain interns enhanced the delivery of team-based patient-centered care. (3) Chaplains were seen as a source of emotional support to the medical team. (4) The partnership has three keys to success: adequate introductions for team members, clear expectations for participants, and opportunities for feedback. The themes presented indicate several benefits of pairing physicians and chaplains in the setting of direct patient care and suggest that this is an effective approach to incorporating spirituality in medical training.

Keywords: Chaplain hospital service; Curriculum; Graduate medical education; Healthcare teams; Qualitative research.

Publication types

  • Evaluation Study
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Clergy / education*
  • Cooperative Behavior
  • Curriculum*
  • Evaluation Studies as Topic
  • Female
  • Focus Groups
  • Humans
  • Internal Medicine / education*
  • Internship and Residency / methods*
  • Interprofessional Relations*
  • Male
  • Patient-Centered Care
  • Religion and Medicine*