Undergraduate training in palliative medicine: is more necessarily better?

Palliat Med. 2010 Apr;24(3):306-9. doi: 10.1177/0269216309351867. Epub 2010 Feb 1.


The General Medical Council's call to modernize medical education prompted the University of Liverpool Medical School to develop a new undergraduate programme, integrating palliative medicine as 'core' curricula. Following successful piloting, the palliative medicine training programme was further developed and expanded. This paper examines whether the additional investment produces improved outcomes. In 1999, fourth year undergraduate medical students (Cohort 1, n = 217) undertook a 2-week pilot education programme in palliative medicine. Subsequently, the training programme was refined and extended, incorporating advanced communication skills training, an ethics project and individual case presentations (Cohort 2, n = 443). Congruent with the study's theoretical driver of self-efficacy, both cohorts were surveyed pre- and post-programme with validated measures of: (i) self-efficacy in palliative care scale; (ii) thanatophobia scale. No significant differences between cohorts' pre-programme scores were identified. Within each cohort, statistically and educationally significant post-education improvements were recorded in both scales. Further post-education analysis indicated that the extended programme produces significantly greater improvements in all domains of the self-efficacy in palliative care scale (communication, t =-7.28, patient management, t =-5.96, multidisciplinary team-working t =-3.77 at p < 0.000), but not thanatophobia. Although improvements were recorded in both cohorts, participation in the extended education programme resulted in further statistically significant gains. Interpreted through the theoretical model employed, improved self-efficacy and outcome expectancies will result in behavioural change that leads to improved practice and better patient care.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Curriculum
  • Education, Medical, Undergraduate / methods
  • Education, Medical, Undergraduate / standards*
  • Female
  • Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Models, Educational
  • Palliative Care*
  • Program Development*
  • Program Evaluation
  • Self Efficacy
  • Students, Medical / psychology