Advancing Spiritual Care Through Research

Teaching Third-Year Medical Students to Address Patients’ Spiritual Needs in the Surgery/Anesthesiology Clerkship

Introduction: Despite many patients wanting physicians to inquire about their religious/spiritual beliefs, most physicians do not make such inquiries. Among physicians who do, surgeons are less likely than family and general practitioners and psychiatrists to do so. Methods: To address this gap, we developed a 60-minute curriculum that follows the Kolb cycle of experiential learning for third-year medical students on their surgery/anesthesiology clerkship. The session includes definitions of religion/spirituality, an overview of the literature on spirituality in surgery, a review of the FICA Spiritual History Tool, discussion of the role of the chaplain and the process of initiating a chaplain consult, and three cases regarding the spiritual needs of surgical patients. Results: In total, 165 students participated in 10 sessions over 13 months. Of these, 120 students (73%) provided short-term feedback. Overall, 82% rated the session above average or excellent, and 72% stated the session was very relevant to patient care. To improve the session, students recommended assigning key readings, discussing more cases, role-playing various scenarios, inviting patients to speak, practicing mock interviews, and allowing for more self-reflection and discussion. Long-term feedback was provided by 105 students (64%) and indicated that the spirituality session impacted their attitudes about the role of religion/spirituality in medicine and their behaviors with patients. Discussion: We have designed a successful session on spirituality for third-year students on their surgery/anesthesiology clerkship. Students reported it to be a positive addition to the curriculum. The session can be modified for other surgical subspecialties and specialties outside of surgery.