spirituality and medicine:
curriculum development project


Educational strategies from the Task Force Report

in Spirituality, Cultural issues and End of Life Care

from the US Medical School Objectives Project


The task force report from the US Medical School Objectives Project also considered what educational strategies should be employed to encourage students to become comfortable in discussing spiritual issues with patients. They suggested:


» Develop specific learning objectives relating to each of the three topics (spirituality,
cultural issues, and end-of-life care)

» Develop educational resources designed to accomplish learning objectives

» Establish a curriculum management process that insures that relevant issues
are included in all four years of the curriculum, incorporating content into
existing courses wherever possible.

» Design educational experiences so that students learn how to elicit a spiritual
and cultural history, and talk to dying patients

» Design experiential activities that integrate spiritual, cultural, and end-of-life
issues (e.g., videotapes, case studies, standardized patients, problem-based
cases) to promote learning

» Provide students with regular opportunities to discuss and explore their feelings
about clinical experiences (conflicts created by spiritual and cultural differences,
care of dying patients)

» Encourage student self-reflection (e.g., journal writing, small group discussions,
role-playing, simulated exercises, using literature, patient narratives, parallel

» Utilize students as peer educators. For example, different cultural and spiritual
backgrounds can be explored; skills in obtaining spiritual and cultural histories
can be taught and reinforced; strategies for effectively dealing with dying
patients discussed.

» Encourage and provide time for students to volunteer in community based
activities, and provide a forum for these students to share their experiences
with other members of their institution

» Organize both elective and required community and culturally based service
learning experiences (medical Spanish course, sign language course, internaional
health course, rotations in clinics with speakers of other languages)

» Establish longitudinal patient care experiences to enhance student under
standing of the relationship between spirituality, culture, and end-of-life issues
and their patients’ health

» Have students participate in interdisciplinary formats in which the patient’s
spiritual and cultural needs can be a major focus (e.g. hospices, collaborating
with chaplains, home visits with nurses, community-based clinics for homeless
people, rehabilitation centers, prisons, churches).

» Ensure that students have opportunities to care for dying patients, in hospice,
home care, or in-patient settings, thereby allowing students to become familiar
and comfortable with the physical, emotional, sociocultural, and spiritual
issues faced by the patient, family, and physicians at the end of life



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.