Recognizing that it is part and parcel of what they do: teaching palliative care to medical students in the UK

Palliat Med. 2010 Apr;24(3):299-305. doi: 10.1177/0269216309356029. Epub 2010 Feb 22.


In their first year of work, newly qualified doctors will care for patients who have palliative care needs or who are dying, and they will need the skills to do this throughout their medical career. The General Medical Council in the United Kingdom has given clear recommendations that all medical students should receive core teaching on relieving pain and distress together with caring for the terminally ill. However, medical schools provide variable amounts of this teaching; some are able to deliver comprehensive programmes whilst others deliver very little. This paper presents the results of a mixed methods study which explored the structure and content of palliative care teaching in different UK medical schools, and revealed what coordinators are trying to achieve with this teaching. Nationally, coordinators are aiming to help medical students overcome the same fears held by the lay public about death, dying and hospices, to convey that the palliative care approach is applicable to many patients and is part of every doctors' role, whatever their specialty. Although facts and knowledge were thought to be important, coordinators were more concerned with attitudes and helping individuals with the transition from medical student to foundation doctor, providing an awareness of palliative medicine as a specialty and how to access it for their future patients.

MeSH terms

  • Attitude of Health Personnel*
  • Attitude to Death
  • Clinical Competence
  • Curriculum
  • Education, Medical, Undergraduate / methods*
  • Education, Medical, Undergraduate / standards
  • Hospices
  • Humans
  • Palliative Care*
  • Physician's Role / psychology*
  • Schools, Medical
  • United Kingdom