Context: Spirituality has been demonstrated to play an important role in healthcare, yet many staff feel ill-equipped to deliver spiritual care. Spiritual care training programs have been developed to address this need.

Objective: The aim of this mixed-methods systematic review was to identify spiritual care training programs for healthcare professionals or students, and to investigate program content, teaching methods, key outcomes, and identified challenges and facilitators.

Methods: A mixed-methods systematic review was conducted. The search terms (‘religio*’ OR ‘spiritual*’ OR ‘existenti*’) were combined with (‘educat*’ OR ‘train*’ OR ‘curricul*’ OR ‘program*’), AND (‘care’ OR ‘therap*’ OR ‘treatment’ OR ‘competenc*’). Search terms were entered into the following data bases: PsycINFO, Medline, Cinahl and Web of Science. Findings were restricted to peer-reviewed studies published in English between January 2010 and February 2020.

Results: Fifty-five studies were identified. The quality of studies was mixed. Programs encompassed a range of content and teaching methods. Reported outcomes included increased levels of competency across intrapersonal spirituality, interpersonal spirituality, and spiritual assessment and interventions. Identified barriers included competing healthcare priorities, negative perceptions of spirituality and spiritual care, resistance towards focusing on one's own spirituality, staff feeling inadequate, and the need for ongoing training. Facilitators included opportunities for reflection, involvement of chaplains, application of practical tools, opportunities for practice, online training, and managerial support.

Conclusions: Positive outcomes following spiritual care training were identified. Further research is needed to identify patient-related outcomes of staff training, and to examine how the benefits of such training can be maintained over time.


health personnel, spirituality, spiritual care, training

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