Palliative care education for medical students: Differences in course evolution, organisation, evaluation and funding

Walker, S. et al. Palliative Medicine. Published online: October 6, 2016

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Background: A proportion of newly qualified doctors report feeling unprepared to manage patients with palliative care and end-of-life needs. This may be related to barriers within their institution during undergraduate training. Information is limited regarding the current organisation of palliative care teaching across UK medical schools.

Aims: To investigate the evolution and structure of palliative care teaching at UK medical schools.

Design: Anonymised, web-based questionnaire.

Settings/participants: Results were obtained from palliative care course organisers at all 30 UK medical schools.

Results: The palliative care course was established through active planning (13/30, 43%), ad hoc development (10, 33%) or combination of approaches (7, 23%). The place of palliative care teaching within the curriculum varied. A student-selected palliative care component was offered by 29/30 (97%). All medical schools sought student feedback. The course was reviewed in 26/30 (87%) but not in 4. Similarly, a course organiser was responsible for the palliative care programme in 26/30 but not in 4. A total of 22 respondents spent a mean of 3.9 h (median 2.5)/week in supporting/delivering palliative care education (<1–16 h). In all, 17/29 (59%) had attended a teaching course or shared duties with a colleague who had done so. Course organisers received titular recognition in 18/27 (67%; no title 9 (33%); unknown 3 (11%)). An academic department of Palliative Medicine existed in 12/30 (40%) medical schools. Funding was not universally transparent. Palliative care teaching was associated with some form of funding in 20/30 (66%).

Conclusion: Development, organisation, course evaluation and funding for palliative care teaching at UK medical schools are variable. This may have implications for delivery of effective palliative care education for medical students.

Read the abstract here

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