Most Americans indicate they are religious and/or spiritual and wish to have their beliefs taken into account when engaging with health care providers, yet gaps in medical education and health care practice remain. To underscore the importance of spirituality as a significant social determinant of health, a team at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York developed mandatory spirituality and health training for students integrated into all 4 years of the undergraduate medical education curriculum.
From 2014 to 2020, a small group of faculty took an innovative approach, launching the initiative and expanding the team by engaging interprofessional faculty and staff from across the institution. The team used an iterative process to integrate 4 distinct modules into 4 existing courses, spanning the four years of medical school.
The majority of students found that the spirituality and health curriculum was valuable to training and professional development. They appreciated the importance of patients’ spiritual needs; valued learning about the role chaplains play in patient care and how initiate a consult; and indicated they intended to integrate spiritual history-taking in their patient care. With respect to process, 3 key factors—establishing an interprofessional team, working through an iterative process, and integrating the curriculum into existing courses—were critical to designing and implementing the modules.
The team aims to expand and improve the curriculum by linking learning to specific standardized competencies as well as developing more specific performance assessments to demonstrate achievement of competencies. Professional development efforts will be enhanced so faculty can better model and reinforce the integration of spirituality into health care practices, and expand the curriculum on spirituality and health into graduate medical education.