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Spirituality and Health Elective- UI Health/ UV/ LCHC *

Must have completed Family Medicine, Internal Medicine and Psychiatry Clerkship

Narrative Description:

Religion and spirituality are an integral component to the lives of many people, including the patients we see at UI Health. According to Pew Research and Gallup polls, 76.5% of Americans are religiously affiliated and 81% say they believe in God. In some areas of the country, 90% of hospitalized patients use religion to enable them to cope with their illnesses, and over 40% indicate it is their primary coping behavior. Spirituality has direct implications on a patient’s social determinants and biopsychosocial model of health, and providers must be comfortable discussing it to provide the most holistic care possible. Successfully doing this addresses the patient’s wellbeing and can help build stronger patient-doctor relationships. Failure to do so fosters unmet spiritual needs and a missed avenue of healing. Through this two or four-week elective, medical students will gain experience collecting spiritual histories, having discussions on patients’ spiritualities and how it pertains to their healthcare, and familiarizing themselves with resources that can be used to meet patients’ spiritual needs.

Learning Objectives:

At the conclusion of the course students will be able to:

  1. Practice gathering spiritual histories using published methodologies like CSI-MEMO, FICA, HOPE, etc.
  2. Acquire comfort and skill discussing patients’ spiritual needs, perspectives, and how it pertains to their physical and mental health.
  3. Learn to identify missed avenues of care and healing in patients’ holistic care plans.
  4. Improve their bedside manner and communication skills with patients.
  5. Familiarize themselves with the functions and goals of the chaplaincy team and their role on the medical care team.
  6. Gain perspective on the importance and nuance of spirituality in healthcare via required readings and didactics.
  7. Develop further insight and understanding via a written reflection essay on the lessons learned during this rotation and how they can apply them in their future practice.


Description of Learning Activities

During this elective, students will fulfill the learning objectives and desired competencies mainly through shadowing physicians in the outpatient setting, like University Village (UV) or Lawndale Christian Health Center (LCHC) clinics, or other predetermined practice location, and the UI Health chaplaincy team in the inpatient setting. These clinical environments are equipped to allow students to practice having these integrated discussions with patients. The student will also gain further instruction via required reading and didactics/small groups sessions at LCHC or another site. At the end of the rotation, the student is expected to write a 1-page reflection on their experiences and lessons learned.

Daily Responsibilities:

Shadowing clinicians and chaplaincy staff, 50% in hospital setting and 50% in clinic setting, Individual self-study, reading, and interviewing patients.

Recommended Reading/ Educational Resources: 

A Box folder link with many articles on this topic will be provided to students as recommended reading/texts.


  • Students will be graded on a Satisfactory/Unsatisfactory basis. Students will be assessed by the faculty based on their participation in clinical settings, didactic sessions and required assignments.
  • The student will be evaluated by the course director, with input from staff and other clinicians, by completing a standard evaluation form.
  • Feedback will be given verbally throughout the elective according to the Dean’s Office generated elective evaluation form.

We will schedule students on open availability and first-come first-serve basis. We encourage you to complete the following form as soon as you think you might be interested in taking this elective:

Administrative Information Heading link

  • Program Number

    ELEC 540

  • Program Contacts

    Program Director: Karl Kochendorfer, MD
    Coordinator: Bertha Wheaton

  • Program Information

    Location: UI Health
    Duration: 2 or 4 weeks
    Students Accepted: Min. 0 Max. 1
    Housestaff used as faculty: Yes
    Independent Study hours per week: 4
    Inpatient hours per week: 15
    Outpatient hours per week: 15-20
    Total average hours/week: 40