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, 13 (3), 319-26

Determinants of Medical Students' Perceived Preparation to Perform End-Of-Life Care, Quality of End-Of-Life Care Education, and Attitudes Toward End-Of-Life Care

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Determinants of Medical Students' Perceived Preparation to Perform End-Of-Life Care, Quality of End-Of-Life Care Education, and Attitudes Toward End-Of-Life Care

Martha E Billings et al. J Palliat Med.

Abstract

Background: Medical students' learning about end-of-life care can be categorized into three learning modalities: formal curriculum, taught in lectures; informal curriculum, conveyed through clinical experiences; and "hidden curriculum," inferred from behaviors and implicit in medical culture. In this study, we evaluated associations between survey items assessing these learning modalities and students' perceptions of their preparation, quality of education, and attitudes toward end-of-life care.

Methods: Data were collected from a national survey of fourth-year medical students (n = 1455) at 62 medical schools in 2001. Linear regression analyses were performed to assess associations between formal, informal and hidden end-of-life care curricula and students' perceived preparedness to provide end-of-life care, quality of end-of-life care education and attitudes toward end-of-life, controlling for students' demographics and clustered by school.

Results: Students reporting more exposure to formal and informal curricula felt more prepared and rated their end-of-life care education higher. Students with more exposure to a hidden curriculum that devalued end-of-life care perceived their preparation as poorer and had poorer attitudes toward end-of-life care. Minority students had slightly more negative attitudes but no differences in perceived end-of-life care preparation.

Conclusions: Medical students' sense of preparedness for end-of-life care and perceptions of educational quality are greater with more coursework and bedside teaching. By contrast, the hidden curriculum conveying negative messages may impair learning. Our findings suggest that implicit messages as well as intentional teaching have a significant impact on students' professional development. This has implications for designing interventions to train physicians to provide outstanding end-of-life care.

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