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A Survey on the Integration of Spiritual Care in Medical Schools from the German-Speaking Faculties

Authors Taverna M, Berberat PO, Sattel H, Frick E

Received 25 July 2019

Accepted for publication 30 October 2019

Published 3 December 2019 Volume 2019:10 Pages 1009—1019

DOI https://doi.org/10.2147/AMEP.S224679

Checked for plagiarism Yes

Review by Single-blind

Peer reviewers approved by Dr Maria Olenick

Peer reviewer comments 3

Editor who approved publication: Dr Anwarul Azim Majumder


Video abstract presented by Eckhard Frick

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Mara Taverna,1 Pascal O Berberat,2 Heribert Sattel,1 Eckhard Frick1

1Department of Psychosomatic Medicine & Psychotherapy, TUM School of Medicine, Technical University of Munich, Munich, Germany; 2Medical Education Center, TUM School of Medicine, Technical University of Munich, Munich, Germany

Correspondence: Eckhard Frick
Department of Psychosomatic Medicine & Psychotherapy, Klinikum rechts der Isar, Technical University of Munich, Munich, Germany
Email eckhard.frick@tum.de

Objective: Teaching about spirituality and health is recommended by the American Association of Medical Colleges and partially implemented in some US medical schools as well as in some faculties of other countries. We systematically surveyed Medical School Associate Deans for Student Affairs (ADSAs) in three German-speaking countries, assessing both projects on and attitudes towards Spiritual Care (SC) and the extent to which it is addressed in undergraduate (UME), graduate (GME), and continuing (CME) medical education (in this article, UME is understood as the complete basic medical education equivalent to college and Medical School. GME refers to the time of residency).
Methods: We executed a cross-sectional qualitative complete online-survey, addressing ADSAs of all accredited 46 medical schools in these countries. Anonymized responses could be analyzed from 25 (54.3%).
Results: No faculty provides a mandatory course exclusively dedicated to SC. Fourteen medical schools have UME courses or contents on SC, and 9 incorporate SC in mandatory classes addressing other topics. While most of the respondents indicate that spirituality is important for (a) the patients for coping and (b) for health care in general and thus, support the teaching of SC in UME, only half of them indicate a need for an SC curriculum in UME. Even if funding and training support were available, only a few of the respondents would agree to provide more of the sparse curricular time.
Conclusion: A majority of the participating medical schools have curricular content on SC, predominantly in UME. However, most of the content is based on voluntary courses. Despite acknowledging its importance to patients, ADSAs and medical teachers are still reflecting on the divergences in patients’ and doctors’ spiritual orientations and its consequences for implementing spirituality into the medical education.

Keywords: medical education, spiritual care, hidden curriculum, existential, religious

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