Research

Here are a few of GWish's primary research efforts:

Spirituality and Religion Survey of Medical Students

This series of surveys evaluates spirituality and medicine course at the George Washington University Medical School, which is part of the Practice of Medicine (POM) curriculum. The PIs, Dr. Puchalski and Dr. Sean Cleary, conduct annual in-class surveys of each class, which began in 2003 with the class of 2007 to determine the effectiveness of spirituality and medicine curriculum. This study will survey students into their residency and subsequent practice

2001 Survey of U.S. Medical/Osteopathic Schools

Drs. Puchalski and Cleary conducted a survey of the curricula in the 144 medical/osteopathic schools in the United States to determine the courses, classes, and topics (required and elective) in spirituality and health.

The 85 (59%) respondents reported teaching 155 spirituality/religion courses, an average of 1.8 courses per school. Of the 155 courses, 43% (n=67) were integrated in the curriculum and 57% (n=88) were standalone courses, with the majority of the courses (70%) being required. Followup calls to initial nonrespondents resulted in findings that 101 of the 144 schools have courses in spirituality and health.

A similar survey was conducted of medical schools in Canada. Of the 17 medical schools in Canada, 76% responded noting at least one topic related to spirituality in humanities or ethics courses. No school, however, listed spirituality as one of the top important topics. Qualitative comments indicated the interest for more formal curricular initiatives.

The Spirituality and Will to Live in HIV/AIDS patients

This study on the will to live in patients with HIV/AIDS was conducted by The George Washington University in conjunction with the University of Cincinnati Medical Center. It examines patient quality of life and its possible relationship to religious activity and spirituality. Project staff interviewed 150 participants/patients of the Medical Faculty Associate's Infectious Disease Clinic at The George Washington University using a booklet of surveys and three computer-generated questions pertaining to quality of life. Dr. Puchalski and Dr. Joel Tsevat worked with a research team of 20 experts in the field to analyze data and prepare publications.

Creating Healing Environments: Design and Implementation of Hospital Interdisciplinary Spirituality Initiative

Drs. Puchalski, McSkimming, and Cleary designed and implemented this is a multifaceted, 2-year research program to refine and implement the Spirituality and Health Program for educating, mentoring, and supporting interdisciplinary healthcare teams to develop and integrate effective spiritual care interventions into daily patient care. GWish pilot-tested this program model with interdisciplinary leadership teams in seven hospitals across the United States. A major difference in perceptions of staff and patients regarding the provision of spiritual care emerged with 76% of staff reporting that they provided spiritual care and 15% of patients indicating that they received spiritual care.

Effectiveness of Chaplains as Co-mentors in Medical School Education Courses

GW is one of the first medical schools to use chaplains as co-mentors in the Practice of Medicine course, a 4-year required course where students learn about interviewing skills, ethics, spirituality and doctor-patient relationship. A survey designed by Dr. Christina Puchalski and Dr. Jim Blatt to look at the effectiveness of chaplains as mentors when compared to psychosocial non-chaplain mentors served to dispel the initially faculty beliefs that chaplains would be harmful to students, e.g., by imposing their beliefs. Instead the results indicate that this assumption is incorrect and in fact, the chaplains can be a useful resource to teach patient-centered care, especially in regard to spiritual issues. GWish is in process of submitting these results.