Cannabis in medicine: a national educational needs assessment among Canadian physicians

BMC Med Educ. 2015 Mar 19:15:52. doi: 10.1186/s12909-015-0335-0.


Background: There is increasing global awareness and interest in the use of cannabis for therapeutic purposes (CTP). It is clear that health care professionals need to be involved in these decisions, but often lack the education needed to engage in informed discussions with patients. This study was conducted to determine the educational needs of Canadian physicians regarding CTP.

Methods: A national needs assessment survey was developed based on previous survey tools. The survey was approved by the Research Ethics Board of the McGill University Health Centre Research Institute and was provided online using LimeSurvey®. Several national physician organizations and medical education organizations informed their members of the survey. The target audience was Canadian physicians. We sought to identify and rank using 5-point Likert scales the most common factors involved in decision making about using CTP in the following categories: knowledge, experience, attitudes, and barriers. Preferred educational approaches and physician demographics were collected. Gap analysis was conducted to determine the magnitude and importance of differences between perceived and desired knowledge on all decision factors.

Results: Four hundred and twenty six responses were received, and physician responses were distributed across Canada consistent with national physician distribution. The most desired knowledge concerned "potential risks of using CTP" and "safety, warning signs and precautions for patients using CTP". The largest gap between perceived current and desired knowledge levels was "dosing" and "the development of treatment plans".

Conclusions: We have identified several key educational needs among Canadian physicians regarding CTP. These data can be used to develop resources and educational programs to support clinicians in this area, as well as to guide further research to inform these gaps.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Attitude of Health Personnel*
  • Canada
  • Education, Medical, Continuing / organization & administration*
  • Female
  • Health Care Surveys
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Medical Marijuana / therapeutic use*
  • Middle Aged
  • Needs Assessment
  • Pharmacology, Clinical / education*
  • Physician-Patient Relations
  • Practice Patterns, Physicians' / standards
  • Practice Patterns, Physicians' / trends
  • Risk Assessment
  • Surveys and Questionnaires*


  • Medical Marijuana