Spirituality and Medicine: Prevalence of Spirituality-in-Medicine Instruction at Osteopathic Medical Schools

Elizabeth K. McClain, EdS; Rance L. McClain, DO; Gautam J. Desai, DO; and Sara A. Pyle, PhD
Notes and Affiliations
Notes and Affiliations

Received: January 10, 2007

Accepted: April 4, 2007

Published: April 1, 2008

J Osteopath Med; 108(4): 197-202

Context: Since the 1990s, there has been a heightened awareness of the value of teaching medical students about how aspects of spirituality and religion may affect patient care.

Objectives: To determine the prevalence of spirituality-in-medicine instruction at colleges of osteopathic medicine (COMs) in the United States.

Methods: Prescreened subjects at 20 COMs were contacted by electronic mail and asked to complete a 25-item Web-based survey. The survey instrument consisted of questions about spirituality-in-medicine instruction at their institutions. If an institution was not represented in our survey results through subject response, we reviewed that institution’s Web site to locate material suggestive of an extant spirituality-in-medicine curricula (eg, prospective student information).

Results: Surveys were submitted to investigators by representatives of 12 COMs for a response rate of 60%. Subjects from 8 COMs reported a structured spirituality-in-medicine curriculum currently in place at their institutions. Osteopathic medical students generally receive a total of 2 to 20 hours of instruction on spirituality and religion. Of the 10 unrepresented institutions, 4 COMs had material available on their Web sites that suggested spirituality-in-medicine topics were embedded in their curricula. Therefore, approximately 55% of all COMs have some form of spirituality-in-medicine program in place.

Conclusions: Some form of spirituality-in-medicine instruction is available at slightly more than half the COMs in the United States. As the need for spirituality-in-medicine curricula is increasingly recognized, improved methods of documenting ongoing curricular development and student competency will be required.

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