Spirituality, Healthcare and Medical Education: Views from New Zealand Medical Students
Background: Spiritual care is becoming increasingly recognised as important for achieving better health outcomes as identified by patients, families of patients and healthcare professionals. However, spiritual care is not operationalised across the health continuum. To address the increasing demand for spiritual care, strategies worldwide are being implemented including spirituality courses in medical education. By investigating the perspectives of medical students, this project may provide a resource for the identification of knowledge gaps about spirituality in this population of Otago medical students which can be used to guide curriculum development. Additionally, the majority of Otago medical students are young adults. Therefore, gaining an understanding towards their attitudes about the role of spirituality in their own health could serve as a stepping stone for integrating spiritual care in specialties where the health of young adults is a focus. Methods: This project explored Otago medical students’ conceptual understandings of spirituality as well as its role in health, health care and medical education. I conducted interviews with 16 medical students located across all three Otago campuses (Dunedin, Wellington and Christchurch). Some students were at the start of their undergraduate medical training and others were in their final year. Transcripts from these interviews were analysed using thematic analysis. Results: Among Otago medical students, spirituality is understood in a variety of ways. However, there is a general consensus that spirituality and religion are related but different constructs. Comparison between first and final year medical students showed no obvious differences regarding the level of understanding on spirituality as a concept. In terms of acknowledgement and receptivity towards spirituality, there were no marked differences between the year groups. However, final year medical students seemed to have a deeper appreciation of spirituality in healthcare, perhaps as a result of increased patient interaction and exposure to clinical settings. Findings from this study suggest a gap in teaching on spirituality as relevant to patient health and healthcare delivery. Otago medical students heavily prefer an interactive platform for learning about spirituality. However, there are mixed views on whether or not spirituality learning should be compulsory or optional. Otago medical students have an inclination towards scientific and evidence-based topics. Development of a curriculum including spirituality should take this into account. Findings from this study also showed a potential role of spirituality in stress management as it helped some students reframe situations in order to cognitively process them.
Advisor: Egan, Richard; Wilson, Hamish
Degree Name: Bachelor of Medical Science with Honours
Degree Discipline: Department of Preventive and Social Medicine
Publisher: University of Otago
Keywords: New Zealand; spirituality; spiritual health; medical education; spiritual care; medical students; healthcare; health
Research Type: Thesis