Journal of Religion and Health

, Volume 58, Issue 1, pp 246–258 | Cite as

Medical Students’ (Dis)comfort with Assessing Religious and Spiritual Needs in a Standardized Patient Encounter

  • Cindy SchmidtEmail author
  • Loes Nauta
  • Melissa Patterson
  • Adam Ellis
Original Paper


Most patients want to discuss their religious and spiritual concerns, yet few physicians discuss it. First-year medical students (n = 92) interviewed a standardized patient experiencing spiritual distress. There was a significant difference among the students’ reasoning for their (dis)comfort and (mis)matching religion with their patient (X2 = 21.0831, p < .05). Most students whose religion matched their patient felt comfortable because of having this in common with their patient. Most students whose religion did not match that of their patient ascribed their comfort to their religious belief to be open and accepting. Discomfort may stem from more individual factors than a (mis)match in religion, as most of the students reported feeling comfortable.


Spiritual concern Religious diversity Standardized patient Medical education 



The authors would like to thank the Clinical Skills Simulation Center at the American University of the Caribbean School of Medicine for their assistance with delivering this curriculum: Alyssa van den Bosch, Fallon Peterson, and all of the standardized patients. Teresa Boese, DNP, provided substantive commentary in her review of this manuscript. IRB: The American University of the Caribbean School of Medicine IRB approved the study as exempt from human subjects review due to the use of routine evaluation data for study # 2015-005 on November 12, 2015. The IRB waived written informed consent due to the sensitizing experience curriculum design along with the research procedure used permitting students to refrain from providing their responses to the researchers, the anonymity of their responses, and the absence of observers to note their decision to provide or withhold their responses.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of interest

The authors report no conflict of interest.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Graduate Medical EducationKansas City University of Medicine and BiosciencesKansas CityUSA
  2. 2.Clinical Skills Simulation Center, Behavioral and Clinical MedicineAmerican University of the CaribbeanCupecoySt. Maarten
  3. 3.Department of Family MedicineSt. John HospitalDetroitUSA
  4. 4.Department of AnesthesiologyIndiana University School of MedicineIndianapolisUSA

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