Spirituality is a fundamental dimension of our human nature that impacts on medical care and yet is relatively neglected by medical education courses in Australia.


This systematic review was conducted to assess the curriculum content currently used to develop medical student understanding of, and engagement with, spirituality in the context of patient care.


Studies published in English from 2010 to the review date were included in order to focus on the most recent curricula. Studies included medical students in undergraduate or postgraduate programmes, doctors in resident training programmes and registrars. Interventions considered for inclusion were curriculum modules on communication skills in spirituality, spiritual needs assessments and holistic care planning. Six databases, including PubMed, Scopus, PsycINFO, Embase, Medline and CINAHL, were searched electronically using the following keywords and MeSH search terms: ‘medical students’, ‘doctor‘, ‘physician’, ‘spirituality’, ‘spiritual care’, ‘religion’, ‘education’, ‘history taking’ and ‘communication skills training’ from 2010 to 2020.


For 342 articles, three researchers screened the titles and abstracts; disagreements were resolved by discussion. Full-text articles were assessed for eligibility based on study and report characteristics; 17 papers were included in the analysis. Curriculum content of each study was reviewed. The following key features were employed frequently: chaplain shadowing, communications skills training, self-reflection, examining evidence and relationship building.


This review has determined the core content, aims and objectives to guide construction of spirituality curricula in Australian medical education.


Spiritual care, Spiritual history taking, Communication skills training

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