More than 90 percent of pharmacy students who participated in an

educational program said they believe knowledge of spiritual beliefs is

important to caring for patients and are interested in learning more on

the topic, according to a recent article in the April edition of the

Journal of Pharmacy Teaching.

Mahtab Jafari, PharmD, assistant professor of pharmacy practice at Western

University of Health Sciences (WesternU), wrote the article, which was

entitled “”Teaching Pharmacy Students the Relevance of Spirituality in

Patient Care”” and published in one of only two journals in pharmacy

education.

The study aimed to evaluate the importance of teaching spirituality in

patient care to pharmacy students, and included designing a day-long

program on spirituality and healing which was taught to 66 WesternU

pharmacy students. Afterward, a survey showed that 94 percent of them

believed that knowledge of a patient’s spiritual beliefs is important in

caring for them.

“”The results were a pleasant surprise,”” said Dr. Jafari, a resident of

Irvine. “”Many of the students were skeptical about the program before it

began because they didn’t think spirituality had a place in a scientific

curriculum. However, by the end of the day a number of students were

asking why we don’t have more on this topic in our curriculum.””

Faculty members at WesternU who participated in the program believed that

it met its mission of enhancing patient-care skills among pharmacy

students, and many have recommended that it be added permanently to the

curriculum. As a result, a multidisciplinary course entitled “”Spirituality

and Medicine”” is in the process of being organized.

Dr. Jafari wrote the project up for publication a year ago, after it was

met with enthusiasm at a national conference. The program was carried out

in early 1997.

According to her research, increasing numbers of patients want their

healthcare providers to consider their spiritual needs and discuss

religious beliefs with them. The majority of patients report, however,

that this rarely happens.

“”Since doing the project I have received several calls from people

interested in setting up similar programs at their own schools, and I’ve

been continuing to give lectures on the subject here at WesternU each year

also,”” Dr. Jafari said. “”In general, medical education really lacks this

topic; institutions don’t want to deal with it because they think it is

very complex. It’s my belief that the physical body is a very small part

of who we are and what we do, and an understanding of spirituality is

essential for anyone who works with people. Spirituality should be

approached scientifically because it is the medicine of the soul.””