Complementary medicine teaching in Australian medical curricula: The student perspective

Kate Templeman, Anske Robinson, Lisa McKenna

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)


Background: Use of complementary medicine in Australia is increasing. Despite documented high use, however, perspectives of complementary medicine teaching inclusion within health professions education are poorly documented and understood. Aim: This paper explores medical students' perspectives of complementary medicine teaching from the curriculum of Australian medical programs. Methods: A constructivist grounded theory methodological approach was used to generate, construct, and analyse data. Thirty second-year to final-year medical students from 10 medical school education faculties in Australian universities participated in semi-structured interviews over a five-month period in 2013. Findings: Students from all represented medical schools highlighted perspectives of complementary medicine offerings in both the preclinical and clinical curriculum. Across the curriculum, a wide range of perspectives were related to both complementary medicine teaching and learning aspects incorporating social and ethical issues, evidence of clinical efficacy and safety, and evidence-based principles involving critical application and appraisal. Discussion: The findings demonstrate diverse perspectives of complementary medicine teaching not necessarily synonymous with learning. While all students highlighted some form of complementary medicine teaching and/or learning, perspectives varied between schools and across jurisdictions in terms of context and content. Clinical exposure to informal complementary medicine learning in clerkship was extensive relative to formal didactic teaching in the preclinical curriculum. Educational exposure to complementary medicine was shown to positively affect medical student attitudes towards complementary medicine. Conclusion: A coordinated policy towards integration of complementary medicine teaching in Australian medical curricula is recommended. Impetus for open debate regarding what level of complementary medicine teaching and/or learning is sufficient in medical and other health professions education is required.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)421-427
Number of pages7
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2018


  • Complementary medicines
  • Curriculum
  • Evidence-based education
  • Health professions education
  • Medical education

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