Spirituality and Aging

Helen Lavretsky


Aging Health. 2010;6(6):749-769. 

In This Article

Training in Spirituality for Healthcare Professionals

A growing number of medical schools are offering courses in spirituality in medicine.[156] Some programs focus on spirituality and medicine, while other courses included additional components on cultural competency and end-of-life care. Most curricula used several educational methods, such as lectures, small group discussions, standardized patient interviews and readings. Spirituality may be taught in several venues, including courses on holistic medicine and complementary and alternative medicine. Fortin and Barnett indicated that in the recent survey of complementary and alternative medicine course directors at 53 medical schools, 64% included teaching about spirituality, faith and prayer.[156] Puchalski recommended integration of the medical school curricula into a step-wise integration from basic to more sophisticated and specialty relevant material, extending into residency years with interdisciplinary courses that include nursing, social work, allied health and clinical pastoral education programs, with faculty representation from theology, chaplaincy and humanities.[142] Spirituality can be taught in the context of compassionate communication skills, especially in the end-of-life care in chronic disease care model. Some of the courses where spirituality can be integrated, include courses on ethics or medical humanities, longitudinal courses in doctor–patient and society relationships or practice of medicine. Use of standardized patient spirituality case scenarios for teaching, evaluation and testing the students and residents can also be recommended.[142] Evaluation of the programs has been challenging, as schools have different curricula. Most schools evaluate program effectiveness with standard surveys assessing course satisfaction and changes in knowledge skills and attitudes.


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