Interprofessional Spiritual Care Education Curriculum (ISPEC)

Empirical evidence, patient and family experience, and theoretical frameworks support the critical role spirituality and spiritual care plays in the care of patients, particularly those with chronic and complex illness. Recent clinical guidelines recognize the ethical obligation of all ‎healthcare providers to alleviate pain and suffering, whether physical, psychosocial or spiritual. Health care providers acknowledge the growing momentum calling for patients’ spirituality to be addressed, but they ‎often note lack of training as an important barrier‎ to implementing these beliefs. To bridge this gap, The George Washington Institute for spirituality and health (GWish), in partnership with City of Hope, and the Fetzer Institute developed an Interprofessional Spiritual care training program entitled "Interprofessional Spiritual Care Education Curriculum (ISPEC)".

ISPEC is the first curriculum at the global level that offers a theoretically and research-grounded curriculum for teaching interprofessional spiritual care. This innovative training program builds on the investigators’ previous experience in developing the GWish Templeton Reflection Rounds, ELNEC Project, and online training programs. Curricular development forms the ‎basis of a train-the-trainer  program to build leaders, consultants, advocates, and ‎knowledgeable ‎clinicians who can educate, empower, and guide other healthcare professionals at their institute ‎in the ‎integration of spirituality in healthcare.‎ The ISPEC curriculum appropriate for interprofessional pairs of clinicians (e.g. physicians, nurses, social workers, psychologists, and other professions) and chaplains, and will prepare them to attend to patients’ spiritual needs and resources as an integral part of their practice.

Online Training program: The  Online ISPEC Training is focused on knowledge building information using case-based learning, ‎virtual presentations, ‎videos, and self-directed reading materials and includes 6 Modules:

  • Module 1: Introduction and Background
  • Module 2: Spiritual Distress
  • Module 3: Compassionate Presence
  • Module 4: Communication about Spiritual Issues and Spiritual Assessment
  • Module 5: Whole Person Assessment and Treatment Plan
  • Module 6: Ethics and Professional Development

ISPEC Train-the-Trainer Program: A 2.5-day Train-the-Trainer program focused on leadership skills, effecting institutional culture change, goal development, and integration of spiritual care into clinical practice and education, including assessment and treatment planning. Participants of the ISPEC Train-the-Trainer receive a one-year post-course mentoring from leading faculty in goal development and implementation. Formal program evaluation is done at 6- and 12-months post Train-the-Trainer course. 

The first ISPEC Train-the-Trainer was held on July 10-12, 2018 in Washington, DC‎ with 110 participants from 19 states and territories in the US and 10 different countries, including Canada, ‎Botswana, ‎Dominican Republic, Brazil, South Korea, Australia, India, Netherlands, Chile, and ‎Kenya.‎ ‎

ISPEC for institutions: ISPEC program offers an evidence-based training to equip clinicians and chaplains with leadership skills to advance uniform implementation of spiritual care.‎ ISPEC also supports quality improvement efforts to integrate interprofessional spiritual care in ‎all ‎aspects of patient care and create a culture change where dignity, respect and ‎compassionate presence is the foundation ‎of all care.‎

Faculty Members:

  • Christina Puchalski, MD, FACP, FAAHPM, George University's Institute for Spirituality and Health (GWish)
  • Betty Ferrell, RN, PhD, FAAN, FPCN, City of Hope National Medical Center
  • Tracy Balboni, MD, MPH, Harvard Medical School
  • Rev. Richard W. Bauer, MM, BCC, LCSW, Eastern Deanery AIDS Relief Program, Nairobi
  • Marvin Delgado, MD, The University of texas MD Anderson Cancer Center

  • Rev. Kathleen Ennis-Durstine. Manager of Pastoral Care at Children's National Health System
  • Noreen Chan, MD, FAMS, National University Cancer Institute (NCIS), Singapore
  • Betty Ferrell, RN, PhD, FAAN, FPCN, City of Hope National Medical Center
  • Paul Galchutt, MPH, MDiv, BCC, University of Minnesota
  • Trace Haythorn, PhD, The Assosciation for Clinical Pastoral Education
  • Carolyn Jacobs, M.S.W., Ph.D. Smith College School for Social Work
  • Najmeh Jafari, MD, MPH, George University's Institute for Spirituality and Health (GWish)
  • Christina Puchalski, MD, FACP, FAAHP, George University's Institute for Spirituality and Health (GWish)
  • Anne Vandenhoeck, PhD, Ke Leuven University, Belgium 
  • Elisha Waldman, MD, Ann and Robert H. Luries Children's Hospital, Chicago. 

Eligibility Criteria:

  • Clinicians from different professions (Medicine, Nursing, Social work, Psychology, Physical therapy, Occupational Therapy, Physician Assistant, etc.) who work with patients with chronic and serious diseases are eligible to apply.
  • Each organization’s team should include one clinician and one chaplain.
  • Pairs of clinicians/ chaplains from Pediatrics and Geriatrics departments are also welcome to apply.  

 Participants will be selected through a highly competitive application review process. For more information about the future ISPEC Courses and application process, please contact Dr. Najmeh Jafari at jafari@gwu.edu

The Next ISPEC Train-the-Trainer program will be held on July 9-11, 2019 in Honolulu, Hawaii. 

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Past ISPEC Training programs:

 The First Train-the Trainer ISPEC training was held on July 10-12 in Washington, DC. More than 100 participanst from healthcare organizatoons in 19 different US states, 1 US territory, and 12 different countries attended the launch of ISPEC training program.  

                                                                                                                                                       The First ISPEC Train-the-Trainer Program, Washington, DC