Teaching and learning end-of-life care: evaluation of a faculty development program in palliative care

Acad Med. 2005 Jul;80(7):657-68. doi: 10.1097/00001888-200507000-00008.


Purpose: To evaluate the effectiveness of the Program in Palliative Care Education and Practice (PCEP), an intensive faculty development program at Harvard Medical School.

Method: PCEP is a two-week program offered annually with two on-site sessions in Boston, MA, and an interim period distance-learning component. Training integrates palliative care clinical skill development, learning theory and teaching methods, and leadership and organizational change. Longitudinal surveys (preprogram, retrospective preprogram, and postprogram) of participants from 2000-03 assessed self-reported preparation in providing and teaching palliative care; teaching and patient care practices; and satisfaction with program.

Results: The response rate was 96% (n=149) for Session I and 72% for both Session I and II (n=113). Questionnaire responses demonstrated statistically significant improvements with large effect sizes (range 0.7-1.8) on nearly all measures. Preparation increased from 3.0+/-1.1 to 4.2+/-0.7 for providing end-of-life care (1=not well prepared, 5=very well prepared), and from 2.6+/-1.0 to 4.3+/-0.7 for teaching this topic. Respondents reported behavioral changes in patient care and teaching; e.g., after the program, 63% noted that, specifically as a result of attending the course, they encouraged learners to reflect on their emotional responses to dying patients, and 57% conducted experiential exercises (e.g., role-play). Eighty-two percent rated the experience as "transformative," and many responses to open-ended items described powerful learning experiences. Participants rated the program highly (4.9+/-0.1, 1=lowest, 5=highest rating).

Conclusions: Integrating clinical content with learning about educational methods is an efficient and effective approach to enhancing clinical faculty's capacity to model and teach clinical care. This program offers an educational model that engages practitioners, stimulates changes in practice, and offers opportunities for reflection and professional revitalization.

Publication types

  • Evaluation Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Academic Medical Centers
  • Attitude of Health Personnel
  • Attitude to Death
  • Boston
  • Curriculum
  • Data Collection
  • Faculty, Medical / standards*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Learning
  • Male
  • Models, Educational*
  • Palliative Care / methods*
  • Palliative Care / standards
  • Program Evaluation
  • Schools, Medical*
  • Staff Development / methods
  • Staff Development / standards*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Teaching / methods
  • Terminal Care / methods*
  • Terminal Care / standards