Despite increasing awareness about the importance of discussing end-of-life (EOL) care options with terminally ill patients and families, many physicians remain uncomfortable with these discussions.Objective:
The objective of the study was to examine perceptions of and comfort with EOL care discussions among a group of internal medicine residents and the extent to which comfort with these discussions has improved over time.Methods:
In 2013, internal medicine residents at a large academic medical center were asked to participate in an on-line survey that assessed their attitudes and experiences with discussing EOL care with terminally-ill patients. These results were compared to data from a similar survey residents in the same program completed in 2006.Results:
Eighty-three (50%) residents completed the 2013 survey. About half (52%) felt strongly that they were able to have open, honest discussions with patients and families, while 71% felt conflicted about whether CPR was in the patient's best interest. About half (53%) felt strongly that it was okay for them to tell a patient/family member whether or not CPR was a good idea for them. Compared to 2006 respondents, the 2013 cohort felt they had more lectures about EOL communication, and had watched an attending have an EOL discussion more often.Conclusions:
Modest improvements were made over time in trainees’ exposure to EOL discussions; however, many residents remain uncomfortable and conflicted with having EOL care discussions with their patients. More effective training approaches in EOL communication are needed to train the next generation of internists.