Background: The need for doctors who have skills in pain management and palliative medicine is greatest in low and moderate resource countries where patients most frequently present to their health care system with advanced illness and greater than 80% of the global deaths occur. While medical students trained in the United States are required to have training in palliative medicine, international medical graduates (IMGs), who have completed medical school outside North America, may not have the same exposure to palliative medicine training as U.S. physicians. The goal of this study was to evaluate whether a four-week course in palliative medicine could bring IMG attitudes, concerns, competence, and knowledge to the level of U.S. trainees.
Methods: As part of a prospective cohort study, 21 IMGs from 14 countries participated in a four-week course in palliative medicine. Attitudes, concerns, self-reported competence, and knowledge were assessed pre-course and post-course. The course was evaluated weekly and at the end of the four-week program. The data from the IMGs was compared to data from U.S. medical students and residents using the same assessment tools.
Results: After the course, IMGs had significantly decreased concern about ethical and legal issues in palliative medicine to the level of U.S.-trained residents and a significant increase in knowledge and self-rated competence equivalent to the level of U.S. trainees.
Conclusions: A four-week course in palliative medicine can improve the levels of concern, knowledge and self-assessed competence in IMGs to the level of US trainees.