Spirituality in Medicine: A Comparison of Medical Students’ Attitudes and Clinical Performance
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Objective: The authors sought to examine attitudes about spirituality in medicine among medical students in psychiatric clerkships and determine whether instruction on concepts of spirituality in medicine had an effect on students’ clinical performance in related tasks. Methods: A total of 192 students entering psychiatric clerkships were randomly assigned to one of two groups; both groups received identical didactic instruction on spirituality in medicine. One group worked on a problem-based learning case that featured spirituality as a prominent theme, whereas the other group worked on problem- based learning cases that made no mention of it. Students completed pre- and posttest questionnaires, and their examination at the end of rotation included a standardized patient encounter requiring them to elicit a spiritual history. Results: Among the 131 students who completed and returned both questionnaires, a significant difference (p = 0.001) was noted between groups on students’ self-reported knowledge of taking a spiritual history. However, students in the two groups received identical scores on the component of the examination requiring them to write a spiritual history. Conclusions: Although students who were exposed to material on spirituality in medicine reported greater understanding of the issue, no difference in clinical performance was observed.
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