Effect of an educational intervention in “spirituality and health” on knowledge, attitudes, and skills of students in health-related areas: A controlled randomized trial

Background: To date there have been no randomized studies that assess whether “Spirituality and Health” (S/H) programs are, indeed, effective, or not. We sought to evaluate if an intervention in teaching S/H fosters competence changes in healthcare students.

Methods: A randomized controlled trial was carried out. Students were randomized into two groups: an Intervention Group (a theoretical-practical course in S/H) and a control group (waiting list). Students’ S/H knowledge, attitudes, and skills (through a simulated patient) were assessed.

Results: A total of 49 students were evaluated. Students in the intervention group received higher scores on knowledge tests, felt more comfortable and prepared to talk about religious/spiritual beliefs with patients, more readily recognized importance of hospital chaplains, and more frequently held the opinion that addressing spirituality is important. Furthermore, a breaking down of S/H barriers was identified. Students also demonstrated more ability in obtaining a patient’s spiritual history when compared to the control group.

Conclusions: There were some differences on knowledge, attitudes, and spiritual history skills between students who participated in the S/H teaching strategy and students who have not been exposed to the theme. These results might foster discussion for the development of new educational strategies about the subject.