Spiritual dimension in palliative medicine: a qualitative study of learning tasks: medical students, teachers, educationalists

J. Pieters*, D. Verstegen, D. Dolmans, E. Neis, F. Warmenhoven, M.V. Everdingen

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Background Palliative care is gaining importance within the physician's range of duties. In the undergraduate medical curriculum, education on the four dimensions of care is insufficient. The spiritual dimension is hardly addressed. Therefore, we developed a coherent set of learning tasks targeted at learning to communicate about the spiritual dimension. The learning tasks are based on educational principles of authentic learning, reflective learning and longitudinal integration in the curriculum. This article reports on the feasibility of using these learning tasks in the medical curricula. Methods Teachers and educational scientists were interviewed and students were asked to evaluate the learning tasks in focus groups. Interview transcripts were analysed by three independent researchers. Results The learning tasks encourage the students to reflect on the four dimensions of palliative care and their personal values. Learning was clearly organised around authentic learning tasks relevant to the later profession, using paper, video cases, as well as simulations and real patients. Participants suggest giving more attention to cultural diversity. As palliative care is an emotionally charged subject, the safety of both student and patient should be guaranteed. All participants indicated that the program should start in the bachelor phase and most agreed that it should be integrated vertically and horizontally throughout the undergraduate program, although there is some debate about the optimal moment to start. Conclusion The tasks, are authentic, encourage the students to reflect on the spiritual dimension of palliative care and are suitable for integration in the undergraduate medical curriculum.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)e408-e414
Number of pages7
JournalBMJ Supportive and Palliative Care
Issue numberE2
Early online date20 Jul 2021
Publication statusPublished - 20 Jul 2021


  • Education and training
  • communication
  • spiritual care
  • 12 TIPS
  • END


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