The different levels of learning about dying and death: an evaluation of a personal, professional and interprofessional learning journey

Med Teach. 2007 Sep;29(6):e151-9. doi: 10.1080/01421590701294331.


Background: Although dying and death are common in practice, medical and social work students receive limited teaching on this topic. In addition, they have minimal experience of each others' role in the process, yet respecting the roles of other professionals in this delicate area is paramount to the delivery of high standards of care. In an attempt to address this, a pilot interprofessional 3 hour dying and death workshop was developed for senior social work and medical students using a constructivist approach to explore their own personal, uniprofessional and interprofessional roles in the dying and death process.

Methods: An expert group of health care professionals designed the workshop through an iterative process. The participants evaluated the workshop in relation to the levels of their learning journey at two time points using a combination of Likert scales and free text.

Results: An afternoon workshop was created comprising a trigger exercise to ascertain the students' own feelings, simulation of the practical aspects relating to a patient's death (confirmation of death, death certification and last offices), and discussion about the grief process, followed by case studies to consolidate their learning and highlight the interprofessional aspect. Eleven final year social work students and 14 medical students in their fourth year took part. Participants felt they gained most from the interprofessional aspect of their learning journey and suggested other topics for interprofessional learning. All students would recommend the workshop to their colleagues.

Conclusions: This undergraduate interprofessional pilot dying and death workshop was well received and enabled learning on three levels--personal, professional and interprofessional. It promoted a greater understanding of the role of each student's own profession and appreciation of the role of other professionals in the dying and death process.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Attitude to Death*
  • Education, Medical, Undergraduate*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Pilot Projects
  • Social Work / education*
  • Students, Health Occupations / psychology*
  • Students, Medical / psychology*