Palliative Care-Related Knowledge, Attitudes, and Self-Assessment Among Physicians in Vietnam

J Pain Symptom Manage. 2019 Dec;58(6):1015-1022.e10. doi: 10.1016/j.jpainsymman.2019.08.001. Epub 2019 Aug 16.


Context: Palliative care is rarely accessible in low- and middle-income countries, and lack of adequate training for health care providers is a key reason. In Vietnam, the Ministry of Health, major hospitals and medical universities, and foreign physician-educators have partnered to initiate palliative care training for physicians.

Objectives: To measure the baseline palliative care-related knowledge, attitudes, and self-assessment of Vietnamese physicians as a basis for curriculum development and to enable evaluation of training courses.

Methods: Before palliative care training courses in Vietnam from 2007 to 2014, we collected data on the participating physicians' demographics, self-assessed competence in palliative care, and palliative care-related knowledge and attitudes. Scores were calculated in three outcome categories-knowledge, attitudes, and self-assessment-and in two subcategories related to physical and psychological symptoms. Associations between the demographic, education, and practice factors and these scores were assessed using linear regression.

Results: Among the 392 physicians surveyed, concern about untreated suffering was highly prevalent. 85% felt that most patients with cancer in Vietnam die in pain. On self-assessment, only 8% felt adequately trained in palliative care and the mean knowledge assessment score was 44%. Although 77% had prescribed an opioid in the past year and most had appropriate attitudes toward the use of morphine for pain, the majority reported explicit or implicit restrictions on prescribing morphine.

Conclusion: There is a great need among Vietnam's physicians for training in palliative care and especially in nonpain and psychological symptom control. Rational, balanced, and clear opioid-prescribing policies are needed to enable physicians to treat pain without fear of repercussions.

Keywords: Palliative care; Vietnam; global health; medical education; opioids.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Analgesics, Opioid / therapeutic use
  • Attitude of Health Personnel
  • Drug Prescriptions
  • Education, Medical
  • Female
  • Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Pain / drug therapy
  • Pain Management
  • Palliative Care*
  • Physicians*
  • Self-Assessment
  • Stress, Psychological
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Vietnam
  • Young Adult


  • Analgesics, Opioid