Palliative care education in Swiss undergraduate medical curricula: a case of too little, too early

Palliat Med. 2008 Sep;22(6):730-5. doi: 10.1177/0269216308094560.


Palliative medicine education is an important strategy in ensuring that the needs of terminally ill patients are met. A review was conducted in 2007 of the undergraduate curricula of all five of Switzerland's medical schools to identify their palliative care-related content and characteristics. The average number of mandatory hours of palliative care education is 10.2 h (median 8 h; range 0-27 h), significantly short of the 40 h recommended by the European Palliative Care Association's Education Expert Group. The median time allocated to designated palliative care blocks is 3 h (range 0-8 h). Most of the education occurs before the clinical years, and there are no mandatory clinical rotations. Three schools offer optional clinical rotations but these are poorly attended (<10% of students). Although a number of domains are covered, ethics-related content predominates; 21 of a total of 51 obligatory hours (41%). Communication related to palliative care is largely limited to 'breaking bad news'. In two of the schools, the teaching is done primarily by palliative care physicians and nurses (70% or more of the teaching). In the others, it is done mostly by educators in other clinical specialties and ethics (approximately 90% of the teaching). These findings show significant deficiencies.

Publication types

  • Multicenter Study

MeSH terms

  • Curriculum / standards*
  • Education, Medical, Undergraduate / organization & administration
  • Education, Medical, Undergraduate / standards*
  • Humans
  • Palliative Care*
  • Schools, Medical / organization & administration
  • Schools, Medical / standards
  • Switzerland