spirituality and medicine:
curriculum development project


What is already being taught in the UK?


We encouraged key medical educators from all 32 UK medical schools to complete an electronic questionnaire to assess the amount of spirituality teaching their medical school provides. 21 medical schools responded.  Only 10% of these reported compulsory courses specifically on the subject of spirituality, though a further 14% had optional student-selected courses dedicated to subject. Core topics in the provision of spiritual care for patients were included in the curricula of a number of schools - 57% taught students about the importance of a patient's faith in coping with illness, 33% how to refer patients to the hospital chaplaincy and 24% how to take a spiritual history from patients. Only one school included instruction on the appropriateness of doctors praying with patients or discussing their religious beliefs with them.

The survey included nine 'yes/no' questions about whether or not medical schools taught particular core topics - for example, spiritual history taking. We counted the number of positive responses made by each medical school and plotted them on a graph:

As can be seen from the graph below, 10 schools, almost half, scored either 0 or 1 - showing that teaching about spirituality is all but absent from their curricula.

In conclusion, it seems that teaching about spirituality is sporadic within UK medical schools, often depending upon the presnece of enthusiastic members of staff within institutions with more developed programmes.



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.