End-of-life care in the Dutch medical curricula

Perspect Med Educ. 2018 Oct;7(5):325-331. doi: 10.1007/s40037-018-0447-4.


Introduction: Future doctors must be trained in giving appropriate care to terminal patients. In several countries, medical curricula have been reviewed for the attention devoted to end-of-life care (ELC). In the Netherlands, no formal review had been performed. Therefore, the aim of this study was to provide an overview of the Dutch medical curricula regarding ELC.

Methods: We formed a checklist based on international standards consisting of five domains of ELC education that are considered essential. Firstly, we studied the Dutch national blueprint on medical education. Secondly, using a questionnaire based on the checklist we studied the curricula of the eight medical faculties. A questionnaire was sent to all Dutch medical faculties to study the compulsory courses of the curricula. To assess the elective courses, we consulted the study guides.

Results: The national blueprint included four of the five domains of ELC. None of the eight medical faculties taught all domains specifically on ELC; they were taught within other courses. Most attention was given to the domains on psychological, sociological, cultural and spiritual aspects; communication and conversational techniques; and juridical and ethical aspects. One faculty taught an elective course that included all essential aspects of the international standards.

Discussion: Our study shows that ELC is currently insufficiently mentioned in the national blueprint and that none of the faculties fully integrated ELC as a part of their compulsory medical curricula. To improve ELC education, we recommend the Dutch Federation of University Medical Centres to add the five ELC domains to the national blueprint and we recommend the medical faculties to review their curricula and offer a separate and compulsory course on ELC to prepare their students for their future medical practice.

Keywords: End-of-life care; Medical education; National blueprint.

MeSH terms

  • Curriculum / standards*
  • Curriculum / trends
  • Education, Medical, Undergraduate / methods
  • Humans
  • Netherlands
  • Students, Medical / psychology*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Terminal Care / methods*