To the Editor:
We read with great interest Klitzman’s article “Doctor, Will You Pray for Me? Responding to Patients’ Religious and Spiritual Concerns.” 1 As penultimate year medical students, we were pleased to see this topic being addressed due to the lack of attention it has received in the United Kingdom. We would like to offer further suggestions for the implementation of religious and spiritual topics in medical school curricula.
As stated by Klitzman, even 1 lecture focused on religion and spirituality in a medical education context is better than none. 1 However, in our opinion, medical schools should go one step further and adopt an integrated approach in their curriculum. This would encourage students to regularly consider the impact of religious and spiritual factors throughout their medical education. For example, during endocrinology teaching, educators could discuss how Muslims with diabetes are affected when fasting during Ramadan, and during pharmacology teaching, students could explore the level of medication adherence within the Jewish community during Passover. Similarly, students and educators could discuss why those from Hindu, Jain, and Buddhist communities who practice vegetarianism may refuse medication with gelatin coatings on capsules.
Because students prefer a combination of andragogical and pedagogical teaching methods, 2 small group discussions could create a safe space for students to consider the role of spirituality and religion in health care and the impact of these areas on patient choices. For example, case vignettes involving Jehovah’s Witnesses on blood transfusions would prompt students to think about the ethical implications and the challenges that arise in treatment administration. Such discussions could also take place in symposiums.
Small group roleplay with actors or peers on potential religious or spiritual comments from patients (see Figure 1 of Klitzman’s article 1) would allow students to practice their responses and find a method that best suits them before interacting with real patients. This would foster the transformation of religion from being a topic that doctors avoid to one which is integrated into discussions with patients. Writing reflections on these experiences should be encouraged, as it stimulates students to analyze their actions and skills when dealing with different patients, which is vital for lifelong learning. 3
We commend Klitzman for shining light on this topic. We hope that our suggestions encourage more medical schools to adopt religion and spirituality into their curricula to enhance students’ responses and attitudes and ultimately improve patient care.
1. Klitzman R. Doctor, will you pray for me? Responding to patients’ religious and spiritual concerns. Acad Med. 2021;96:349–354.
2. Minhas PS, Ghosh A, Swanzy L. The effects of passive and active learning on student preference and performance in an undergraduate basic science course. Anat Sci Educ. 2012;5:200–207.
3. Driessen E, van Tartwijk J, Dornan T. The self critical doctor: Helping students become more reflective. BMJ. 2008;336:827–830.