Incorporation of spiritual care as a component of healthcare and medical education: viewpoints of healthcare providers and trainees In Nigeria.


  • Alimatu-Sadia Akeredolu Centre for Medical Education, School of Medicine, Dentistry and Biomedical Sciences, The Queen's University of Belfast, 97 Lisburn Road, Belfast BT9 7BL, Northern Ireland, United Kingdom.
  • Mark T Harbinson Centre for Medical Education, School of Medicine, Dentistry and Biomedical Sciences, The Queen's University of Belfast, 97 Lisburn Road, Belfast BT9 7BL, Northern Ireland, United Kingdom.
  • David Bell The Queen's University of Belfast Medical School


medical education, nursing education, Nigeria, whole-person care


Background: Patients frequently want clinicians to be aware of their spiritual values and needs. There is increasing recognition in Europe and North America of the benefits from incorporating spiritual care into overall patient management.

Methods: This study captures views of healthcare providers at two maternity units in Lagos on the place for spiritual care within healthcare training and delivery in Nigeria. A questionnaire was designed using a 5-point
ordinal scale, with additional free text comments, to capture views of Nigerian doctors and nurses and trainees.

Results: Of 86 respondents, 89% agreed that Spiritual health contributes to physical health, and83% that an individual's faith can affect health and recovery in the event of illness. 92% acknowledged that religious faith or
personal spirituality is significant for many patients and 73% that spiritual care is an important aspect of patient management.

Although 71% recognised that patients wanted doctors to be aware of their spiritual needs, only 29% felt that clinicians should share their own spiritual values with patients and respondents were divided on the extent to
which as clinicians they should become personally involved with 32% preferring to leave provision of spiritual care to others with Specific expertise.58% were supportive of inclusion of training in spiritual care into medical and nursing curricula as an optional component but respondents did not express strong preferences in regard to content or format.

Conclusion: In view of the potential benefits, basic training in taking spiritual histories and identifying spiritual needs amenable to specialist intervention is advocated to enable healthcare providers to meet patient
expectations in provision of spiritual care.

Author Biography

David Bell, The Queen's University of Belfast Medical School

Senior Lecturer in Therapeutics and Pharmacology


WHO, 1946. Preamble to the Constitution of the World Health Organization as adopted by the International Health Conference, New York, 19-22 June, 1946; signed on 22 July 1946 by the representatives of 61 States (Official Records of the World Health Organization, no. 2, p. 100) and entered into force on 7 April 1948.

Larson JS. The World Health Organization's Definition of Health: Social versus Spiritual Health. Social Indicators Research 1996, 38:181-192.

WHOQOL-SRPB Field instrument test, WHO, 2002. Accessed August 3rd, 2017.

Speck P, Higginson I, Addington-Hall J. Spiritual needs in health care. BMJ 2004, 329:123–124.

Fisher JW. Spiritual health: its nature and place in the school curriculum. The University of Melbourne Custom Book Centre 2011.

King DE, Bushwick B, (1994), Beliefs and attitudes of hospital in-patients about faith, healing and prayer, J Fam Pract, 39:349-52

MacLean CD, Susi B et al. Patient preference for physician discussion and practice of spirituality. J Gen Intern Med 2003;18: 38-43.

Silvestri GA, Knittig S, Zoller JS, et al. Importance of faith on medical decisions regarding cancer care. J Clin Oncol 2003, 21:1379 –1382.

Larimore WL, Parker M, Crowther M. Should clinicians incorporate positive spirituality into their practices? What does the evidence say? Ann Behav Med 2002, 24:69-73

Luckhaupt SE, Yi MS, Mueller CV et al. Beliefs of Primary Care Residents Regarding Spirituality and Religion in Clinical Encounters with Patients: A Study at a Midwestern U.S. Teaching Institution. Acad Med. 2005, 80:560–570.

Sulmasy DP. Spirituality, religion and clinical care. Chest 2009, 135: 1634-1642.

Sheldon M. Whole person care (2008). Accessed August 3rd, 2017.

Anandarajah A, Hight E. Spirituality and Medical Practice: Using the HOPE Questions as a Practical Tool for Spiritual Assessment Am Fam Physician 2001, 63: 81-89.

Goldfarb LM, Galanter M, McDowell D, Lifshutz H, Dermatis H. Medical Student and Patient Attitudes Toward Religion and Spirituality in the Recovery Process. The American Journal of Drug and Alcohol Abuse 1996; 22(4):549-561.

Abbott RB, Hui KK, Hays RD et al. Medical Student Attitudes toward Complementary, Alternative and Integrative Medicine. Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine 2011; Article ID 985243:1-14.

Chibnall JT, Duckro PN. Does Exposure to Issues of Spirituality Predict Medical Students’ Attitudes toward Spirituality in Medicine? Acad. Med. 2000, 75:661

General Medical Council. Tomorrow’s Doctors: Outcomes and standards for undergraduate medical education. London, 2009

Randall D, Goulding N. (2007). Centre for Excellence in Teaching and Learning, Barts and the London School of Medicine and Dentistry. Accessed August 3rd, 2017 .

Neely D, Minford EJ. Current status of teaching on spirituality in UK medical Schools. Med Educ 2008, 42: 176–182.

Bell D, Harbinson M, Toman G, Crawford V, Cunningham H. Wholeness of Healing: an innovative student selected component introducing UK medical students to the spiritual dimension in healthcare. South Med J 2010, 103: 1204-1209.

D’ Souza R. The importance of spirituality in medicine and its application to clinical practice. Med J Aust 2007: 186; 557-559.

Fegg M, L’Hoste S, Brandstatter M, Borasio GD. Does the working environment influence healthcare professionals’ values, meaning in life and religiousness? Palliative care units compared with maternity wards. J Pain Symptom Management 2014, 48: 915-923.

Anandarajah G, Roseman JL. A qualitative study of physician’s views on compassionate patient care and spirituality: medicine as a spiritual practice? Rhode Island Medical Journal 2014, 17-22.

McEvoy M, Burton W, Milan F. Spiritual versus religious identity: a necessary distinction in understanding clinician’s behaviour and attitudes toward clinical practice and medical student teaching in this realm. J Relig Health 2014, 53: 1249-1256.

Lucchetti G, Lucchetti ALG, Puchalski CM. Spirituality in Medical Education: Global Reality? J Relig Health 2012, 51:3-19.

Graves DL, Shue CK, Arnold L. The role of spirituality in patient care: Incorporating spirituality training into medical school curriculum. Acad Med 2002, 77:1167.

Fortin AH, Barnett KG. Medical School Curricula in Spirituality and Medicine. JAMA 2004, 291: 2883.

Lie D, Rucker L, Cohn F. Using literature as the framework for a new course. Acad Med 2002, 77:1170.

Montgomery K, Chambers T, Reifler DR. Humanities education at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine. Acad Med 2003, 78:958-962.

Lypson ML, Hauser J. Talking Medicine-a course in medical humanism. Acad Med 2002, 77:1169-70.

Anandarajah G, Craigie F, Hatch R et al. Toward Competency-Based Curricula in Patient-Centered Spiritual Care: Recommended Competencies for Family Medicine Resident Education. Acad Med 2010, 85:1897–1904.

Puchalski CM, Blatt B, Kogan M, Butler A. Spirituality and health: the development of a field. Acad Med 2014, 89: 10-16.

Callister LC, Khalof O. Spirituality in childbearing women. J Periat Educ 2010; 19: 16-24.

Farres C, Beckstrand PL, Callister LC. Help-seeking behaviours in childbearing women in Ghana, West Africa. Int Nurs Rev 2001; 58: 491-497.

Adanakin AI, Onwudiegwu U, Akintayo AA. Reshaping maternal services in Nigeria: any need for spiritual care? BMC Pregnancy and Childbirth 2014: 14:196.

Harbinson MT, Bell D. How should teaching on whole person medicine, including spiritual issues, be delivered in the undergraduate medical curriculum? BMC Medical Education 2015, 15:96 (2 June 2015).

Bell D, Atkinson TC, Agnew CP, Harbinson MT. Incorporation of spiritual care as a component of healthcare and medical education: comparison of viewpoints of healthcare providers from a rural community hospital in Uganda with those of medical students from United Kingdom. Int J Whole Person Care 2016; 3: 12-34.

Islam and Christianity in Sub-Saharan Africa: Appendix B Pew Forum. 2010. p. 3. Accessed August 3rd, 2017.

Northern Ireland Census Data 2011: Religion accessed August 3rd, 2017.

"Discrimination in the EU in 2012", Special Eurobarometer, 383 (European Union: European Commission), 2012: 233, accessed August 3rd, 2017.

"Special Eurobarometer, biotechnology, page 204" Fieldwork: Jan-Feb 2010. European Union: European Commission., accessed August 3rd, 2017.

Guck TP, Kavan MG. Medical student beliefs: Spirituality’s relationship to health and place in the medical school curriculum. Med Teacher 2006, 28:702-7.

Nurse suspended for offering prayer gives her first interview. Daily Mail, February 7th 2009 (accessed August 3rd, 2017)

Doctor who prescribed faith in Jesus fights for his job. Daily Mail, May 23rd 2011 (accessed August 3rd, 2017)

General Medical Council guidance on personal beliefs and medical practice., accessed August 3rd, 2017.




How to Cite

Akeredolu, A.-S., Harbinson, M. T., & Bell, D. (2018). Incorporation of spiritual care as a component of healthcare and medical education: viewpoints of healthcare providers and trainees In Nigeria. The Nigerian Health Journal, 17(3), 90–104. Retrieved from

Similar Articles

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 > >> 

You may also start an advanced similarity search for this article.