Advancing Spiritual Care Through Research

Cultural competence and end-of-life care: Religion, spirituality and health care decision-making

The changing demographic of the U.S. population has shed new light on the importance of providing all patients with the highest standard of care possible. An increase in the number of foreign-born residents with diverse religious backgrounds requires health care professionals to know strategies for understanding and responding to patients who practice less common religions as spiritual beliefs and practices may influence health care decision-making. Despite research that shows the importance of providing culturally competent care, little standardization exists for cultural competency education for health care professionals. This thesis will begin with a review of how the U.S. population is changing and how the spiritual lives of patients can influence care at the end of life. The second chapter gives brief overviews of general beliefs that people who practice common religions and who profess atheism hold about end-of-life care. The third chapter describes and analyzes the curricula for cultural competency education in American medical schools and argues for the Promoting, Reinforcing and Improving Medical Education (PRIME) curriculum as the model curriculum for cultural competency education. In the closing chapter, recommendations for continued improvement in cultural competency education are proposed.