Incorporation of spiritual care as a component of healthcare and medical education: comparison of Sub-Saharan African and Northern European viewpoints

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David Bell
Timothy Atkinson
Christopher Philip Agnew
Mark Thomas Harbinson


This study addresses cultural differences regarding views on the place for spirituality within healthcare training and delivery. A questionnaire was devised using a 5-point ordinal scale, with additional free text comments assessed by thematic analysis, to compare the views of Ugandan healthcare staff and students with those of (1) visiting international colleagues at the same hospital; (2) medical faculty and students in United Kingdom. Ugandan healthcare personnel were more favourably disposed towards addressing spiritual issues, their incorporation within compulsory healthcare training, and were more willing to contribute themselves to delivery than their European counterparts. Those from a nursing background also attached a greater importance to spiritual health and provision of spiritual care than their medical colleagues. Although those from a medical background recognised that a patient’s religiosity and spirituality can affect their response to their diagnosis and prognosis, they were more reticent to become directly involved in provision of such care, preferring to delegate this to others with greater expertise. Thus, differences in background, culture and healthcare organisation are important, and indicate that the wide range of views expressed in the current literature, the majority of which has originated in North America, are not necessarily transferable between locations; assessment of these issues locally may be the best way to plan such training and incorporation of spiritual care into clinical practice.

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How to Cite
Bell, D., Atkinson, T., Agnew, C. P., & Harbinson, M. T. (2015). Incorporation of spiritual care as a component of healthcare and medical education: comparison of Sub-Saharan African and Northern European viewpoints. The International Journal of Whole Person Care, 3(1).
Empirical Studies
Author Biographies

David Bell, Centre for Medical Education The Queen's University of Belfast

Senior Lecturer in Therapeutics and Pharmacology/ Advisor of Studies (Medicine), Centre for Medical Education, QUB

Timothy Atkinson, UK National Health Service

Foundation Year 2 Doctor

Christopher Philip Agnew, UK National Health Service

Foundation Year 2 Doctor

Mark Thomas Harbinson, Centre for Medical Education The Queen's University of Belfast

Senior Lecturer in Cardiology/Consultant Cardiologist


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