spirituality and medicine:
curriculum development project


Edinburgh primary care course


Developing an understanding of the importance of spirituality in patient care was added to the curriculum at Edinburgh seven years ago, and forms an important part of the school's general practice teaching for fifth year students. However, from the first year students are introduced to the idea that patients have 'many dimensions of need' (including spiritual needs), taught through home visits to elderly patients. This theme of 'multidimensional care' is then weaved throughout the curriculum so that all students are aware of it.

Teaching about spirituality is done by clinicians in a clinical setting. As the course progresses the emphasis moves from diagnosis to management. Spiritual issues that students are encouraged to identify may include fears about the progression of illness or a sense of a loss of purpose in life, and they are encouraged to consider whether these issues represent real problems for the patient which require some form of intervention. By year five students should be formulating multi-dimensional management plans for patients, including spiritual recommendations. Students are taught about the therapeutic value of spiritual history taking, allowing patients the freedom to discuss spiritual matters with their doctor, and identifying the patients' own sources of spiritual strength. They also discuss various forms of spiritual support - including the use of prayer groups as complementary therapies. Students are examined by their tutors on how well they take a history from a patient - identifying all their dimensions of need - and then how they formulate management plans to address these different areas.


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The Spirituality and Medicine Curriculum Development Project is funded by the Centre for Excellence in Teaching and Learning at Barts and the London School of Medicine and Dentistry.