Effects of a 12-Month Educational Intervention on Clinicians’ Attitudes/Practices Regarding the Screening Spiritual History

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Abstract

Objectives

Patients’ spiritual values, beliefs, and preferences are identified in outpatient medical settings by the taking of a screening spiritual history (SSH). We report the impact of an educational/training program on the attitudes/practices of physicians (MDs) and midlevel practitioners (MLPs).

Methods

A convenience sample of 1082 MDs or MLPs in outpatient practices was approached to participate in a 12-month educational/training program in this single-group experimental study. Of the 1082 professionals, 48% (427 physicians, 93 MLPs) agreed to complete a questionnaire assessing demographics, practice characteristics, religiosity, and attitudes/practices regarding the SSH. Changes in attitudes/practices over time were examined and baseline predictors identified using mixed-effects regression.

Results

Of the 520 participants completing questionnaires at baseline, 436 were assessed at 1 month (83.8%) and 432 were assessed at 12 months (83.1%). The belief that MDs should take a SSH did not significantly change over time (B = −0.022, standard error [SE] 0.028, P = 0.426). However, those who took an SSH often/always increased from 16.7% at baseline to 34.8% at 12-month follow-up (B = 0.328, SE 0.030, P < 0.0001), and perceived patient acceptance/appreciation increased from 72.1% to 80.5% (B = 0.074, SE 0.023, P = 0.001). Predictors of increased SSH taking across time among MDs were older age, female sex, family medicine specialty, prior training, and importance of religion; older age was the only predictor in MLPs.

Conclusions

Although attitudes toward taking an SSH were not affected, taking an SSH increased initially and was sustained over time, as did the sense that patients accepted/appreciated this practice. Educational programs of this type may be used to increase SSH taking by outpatient MDs and MLPs.

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