Preparing for palliative medicine; evaluation of an education programme for fourth year medical undergraduates

Palliat Med. 2008 Sep;22(6):687-92. doi: 10.1177/0269216308090070.


Prompted by directives from the GMC, 'care of the dying' is identified as 'core curricula' for undergraduate medical education. However, there are many technical and interpersonal challenges faced in learning the practice of palliative medicine. Accordingly, the design and delivery of education programmes need to be both carefully considered and evaluated. Using Bandura's Social Cognitive Theory as a driver, appropriate methodology for evaluating a novel education programme in palliative medicine was drafted. A pre- and post-survey of an education programme and palliative care placement for fourth year medical undergraduate students from Liverpool University (n = 216) was completed using a composite questionnaire containing; i) Self-efficacy in Palliative Care Scale (SEPC) and ii) Thanatophobia Scale. Both scales have shown reliability and validity within the sample population. Additionally, a randomly selected Focus Group was conducted to provide qualitative information on the students' experience. A total of 139 pre- and post-questionnaires (64%) were completed. Analysis identified significant improvements in perceived efficacy (SEPC Communication t = -16.41, P < 0.001; SEPC Patient Management t = -22.31, P < 0.001; SEPC Multidisciplinary Teamwork t = -15.56, P < 0.001). Significant improvements in thanatophobia were also recorded (z = -7.51, P < 0.001) although some interesting anomalies were noted. This study demonstrates that considered and appropriately structured clinical education has been shown to significantly improve students' belief in their ability to practice palliative medicine and to improve their attitude towards care. In accordance with the study's theoretical driver, it is reasonable to propose that the engaged active learning will have a positive effect on the future care of dying patients.

MeSH terms

  • Curriculum / standards*
  • Education, Medical, Undergraduate / standards*
  • England
  • Female
  • Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Palliative Care*
  • Program Evaluation
  • Self Efficacy
  • Terminal Care*