Oncology education for family medicine residents: a national needs assessment survey

BMC Med Educ. 2020 Aug 27;20(1):283. doi: 10.1186/s12909-020-02207-0.

Abstract

Background: This study aimed to determine the current state of oncology education in Canadian family medicine postgraduate medical education programs (FM PGME) and examine opinions regarding optimal oncology education in these programs.

Methods: A survey was designed to evaluate ideal and current oncology teaching, educational topics, objectives, and competencies in FM PGMEs. The survey was sent to Canadian family medicine (FM) residents and program directors (PDs).

Results: In total, 150 residents and 17 PDs affiliated with 16 of 17 Canadian medical schools completed the survey. The majority indicated their programs do not have a mandatory clinical rotation in oncology (79% residents, 88% PDs). Low rates of residents (7%) and PDs (13%) reported FM residents being adequately prepared for their role in caring for cancer patients (p = 0.03). Residents and PDs believed the most optimal method of teaching oncology is through clinical exposure (65% residents, 80% PDs). Residents and PDs agreed the most important topics to learn (rated ≥4.7 on 5-point Likert scale) were: performing pap smears, cancer screening/prevention, breaking bad news, and approach to patient with increased cancer risk. According to residents, other important topics such as appropriate cancer patient referrals, managing cancer complications and post-treatment surveillance were only taught at frequencies of 52, 40 and 36%, respectively.

Conclusions: Current FM PGME oncology education is suboptimal, although the degree differs in the opinion of residents and PDs. This study identified topics and methods of education which could be focussed upon to improve FM oncology education.

Keywords: Cancer; Family doctor; Family medicine; General practitioner; Medical education; Oncology; Residency; Teaching.