Developing learning outcomes for medical students and foundation doctors in palliative care: a national consensus-seeking initiative in Scotland

Med Teach. 2014 May;36(5):441-6. doi: 10.3109/0142159X.2014.889289. Epub 2014 Mar 4.


Background: Undergraduate education in palliative care is essential if doctors are to be competent to care for dying patients and their families in a range of specialties and healthcare settings. However, creating space for this within existing undergraduate and foundation year curricula poses significant challenges. We aimed to develop consensus learning outcomes for palliative care teaching in the university medical schools in Scotland.

Methods: The General Medical Council (GMC) outlines a number of learning outcomes with clear relevance to palliative care. Leaders from the five Scottish medical schools identified and agreed a small number of outcomes, which we judged most relevant to teaching palliative care and collated teaching resources to support these.

Results: Consensus learning outcomes for undergraduate palliative care were agreed by our mixed group of clinician educators over a number of months. There were many secondary gains from this process, including the pooling of educational resources and best practice, and the provision of peer support for those struggling to establish curriculum time for palliative care.

Discussion: The process and outcomes were presented to the Scottish Teaching Deans, with a view to their inclusion in undergraduate and foundation year curricula. It is through a strong commitment to achieving these learning outcomes that we will prepare all doctors for providing palliative care to the increasing numbers of patients and families that require it.

MeSH terms

  • Competency-Based Education / standards*
  • Consensus
  • Education, Medical, Undergraduate / standards*
  • Humans
  • Palliative Care / standards*
  • Quality Improvement
  • Scotland
  • Students, Medical*