The effects of an early observational experience on medical students' attitudes toward end-of-life care

Am J Hosp Palliat Care. 2015 Feb;32(1):52-60. doi: 10.1177/1049909113505760. Epub 2013 Nov 6.


End-of-life care is paramount in maintaining the quality of life of the terminally ill, protecting them from unnecessary treatment, and controlling costs incurred in their care. Training doctors to be effective end-of-life caregivers begins in medical school. A survey design was used to collect data from 166 first-year medical students before and after exposure to hospice or palliative care through an early clinical exposure program. Data demonstrated that students had a significant change in attitude scores after the observational experience (P < .05). Providing students with the opportunity to observe and participate in end-of-life care has a positive effect on attitudes toward the care of dying persons. We recommend that direct exposure to end-of-life care practices be incorporated early in the medical school curriculum.

Keywords: curriculum; education; end of life; hospice; observation; palliative.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Attitude of Health Personnel*
  • Curriculum
  • Education, Medical / methods*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Students, Medical / psychology*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Terminal Care / psychology*
  • Young Adult