Spiritual care education: Step by step towards curriculum guidelines

Revd Dr Andrew Goodhead, Member of the European Association for Palliative Care Task Force on Spiritual Care and Spiritual Care Lead at St Christopher’s Hospice, London, UK; and Piret Paal, PhD, researcher, Professorship in Spiritual Care at the Ludwig Maximilian University in Munich, Germany.

Piret Paal and Andrew Goodhead

Piret Paal and Andrew Goodhead

One of the goals of the EAPC Spiritual Care Task Force is to promote spiritual care education.  The education group are considering how to develop a curriculum to enable organisations to provide education on spirituality, promoting a culture of delivering spiritual care among healthcare professionals and teams.

In October 2013, we launched a brief educational enquiry to explore current levels of spiritual care education. The enquiry had two purposes:

  • to inform palliative care professionals about local training opportunities
  • to inform the Spiritual Care Taskforce about the main educational trends across the EAPC (Goodhead 2013).

A pilot survey revealed that spiritual care is often disregarded (Paal et al. 2014). Twenty-six responses from 14 countries have been received.

ChartA report presented at the EAPC Congress (Lleida) indicated that face-to-face learning forms 88% of spiritual care education; online and practical training just 4%. The length of training varies: from a 1.5 hour seminar to 15 weeks online learning together with a residential requirement. 69% of training is provided to multi-professional teams and 8% to single professional groups. There is a lack of spiritual care training specially designed for palliative care physicians. 97% of respondents indicated their training was not connected to a specific faith group. 81% indicated that they rely on the EAPC definition of spirituality (Nolan et al. 2011).

Available education courses include: reflective listening and communication skills, spiritual support in crisis, and faith issues related to health and spirituality.  Fewer courses concentrated on initiating and ending meaningful spiritual care relationships, spiritual assessment tools and group dynamics and team working.

We enquired about spiritual care teaching methods. This revealed that theoretical input, self-reflection, discussion rounds, developing communication and listening strategies are of great importance. We were keen to understand the methods used for performance assessment. Responses revealed that it is common to conduct a course evaluation, which is not necessarily beneficial to measuring training outcomes. Others expected the completion of written assignments; which again, does not assist practice. In some cases participants are expected to self-assess their skills post-training (13%) or to attend a multidisciplinary conference (6%). Only 3% put learned skills into practice. 10% of respondents mentor their trainees.

How you can help…
We would encourage you to complete the online education enquiry form. Your response will demonstrate how education in spiritual care is progressing and how your multi-professional teams are developing their competency and skill in meeting this important aspect of palliative care.

Goodhead A 2013. Education in spiritual care. EAPC blog (accessed 4 July 2014)

Paal P, Roser T, Frick E 2014. Developments in spiritual care education in German – speaking countries. BMC Medical Education 2014, 14:112  doi:10.1186/1472-6920-14-112.

Nolan S, Saltmarsh P, Leget C 2011 Spiritual care in palliative care: working towards an EAPC Task Force, European Journal of Palliative Care 18 (2), 86-89. To access this article, log into the journal here (http://www.haywardpublishing.co.uk/ejpc.aspx), and register free of charge then choose from the archive.

Links and resources

More posts on spiritual care on the EAPC blog.


This entry was posted in EAPC Task Forces/Reference Groups, EDUCATION & TRAINING, SPIRITUAL CARE and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to Spiritual care education: Step by step towards curriculum guidelines

  1. Pingback: Spiritual care education: Step by step towards curriculum guidelines | EAPC Blog | All Things Palliative - Article Feed

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.