Purpose: End-of-life and palliative care (EOL/PC) education is a necessary component of undergraduate medical education. The extent of EOL/PC education in internal medicine (IM) clerkships is unknown. The purpose of this national study was to investigate the presence of formal EOL/PC curricula within IM clerkships; the value placed by IM clerkship directors on this type of curricula; curricular design and implementation strategies; and related barriers and resources.
Method: The Clerkship Directors in Internal Medicine conducted its annual survey of its institutional members in April 2012. The authors analyzed responses to survey items pertaining to formal EOL/PC curriculum and content using descriptive statistics. The authors used qualitative techniques to analyze free-text responses.
Results: The response rate was 77.0% (94/122). Of those responding, 75.8% (69/91) believed such training should occur in the IM clerkship, and 43.6% (41/94) reported formal curricula in EOL/PC. Multiple instructional modalities were used to deliver this content, with the majority of programs dedicating four or more hours to the curriculum. Curricula covered a wide range of topics, and student assessment tools were varied. Most felt that students valued this education. The qualitative analysis revealed differences in the values clerkship directors placed on teaching EOL/PC within the IM clerkship.
Conclusions: Although many IM clerkship directors have implemented formal curricula in EOL/PC, a substantial gap remains between those who have implemented and those who believe it belongs in the clerkship. Time, faculty, cost, and competing demands are the main barriers to implementation.