Background/purpose: The objective of this study was to investigate the effects of educational intervention using a multimodule curriculum of palliative care on medical students, and to explore significant factors that influence improvement in beliefs of ethical decision-making.
Methods: A total of 259 medical students enrolled in the "Family, Society and Medicine" course, and accepted a multimodule palliative care curriculum that included a 1-hour lecture, 1 hour of patient contact, 1 hour of literature reading, and 1 hour of discussion. A questionnaire was administered before and after the course to evaluate improvements in medical students' knowledge (principles and clinical management) of palliative care and their beliefs concerning ethical decision-making in palliative care.
Results: The students showed significant improvements after the course in their knowledge of the principles of palliative care (pretest 58.4% vs. posttest 73.1%; p less than 0.01) and clinical management of palliative care (pretest 58.8% vs. posttest 67.9%; p less than 0.01). Although their beliefs about ethical decision-making were also improved after the course, the medical students did not have a positive belief of "artificial nutrition and hydration is not always beneficial for terminal cancer patients", with a mean score of only 3.15 and 3.51 (pretest and posttest, respectively; range, 1-5). The logistic regression model showed that improvement in knowledge of either principles or clinical management did not significantly improve beliefs about ethical decision-making.
Conclusion: A multimodule curriculum of palliative care for medical students can significantly improve their knowledge on principles of clinical management and beliefs about ethical decision-making in palliative care. As for changes in beliefs about ethical decision-making in palliative care, continued ethical and clinical training is required.