Australian doctors' perspectives on spiritual history-taking skills

Trudie Rombola


Introduction: This original research examined the experience of Australian doctors using spiritual history-taking skills in holistic medical consultations and evaluated the support of Australian doctors for education on spiritual history-taking skills.

Methods: General practice registrars and post-registrar graduate doctors, sourced primarily from the Hawkesbury Nepean region within NSW, Australia, completed an online survey. Excel data analysis tools were applied to analyse the quantitative results obtained. Line-by-line coding and manual analysis were applied to the free-text answers.

Results: The survey was completed by 147 doctors practising medicine in Australia, a response rate of 24%. Registrars or residents-in-training accounted for 46%; 53% were post-registrar general practitioners. Most doctors (91%) recognised that spiritual care had some role in holistic medical care. Spirituality was included in medical consultations at least occasionally by 47% of doctors. However, only 21% felt confident with including spiritual history. Key barriers were insufficient time, lack of knowledge and lack of skills. Key facilitators included understanding other world views, knowledge of religions, awareness of own beliefs and basic communication skills. Spiritual history-taking skill education for all doctors was supported by 75%.

Conclusions: The majority of Australian doctors who participated in this survey acknowledged the importance of spiritual history within holistic medical care, and many are incorporating this into their regular practice. Yet most doctors recognised a lack of knowledge and skills and desired further training, especially in spiritual history-taking skills. Inclusion of this in Australian medical education was strongly supported.


Australian; doctor; spiritual; education

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