Palliative care in medical practice: medical students' expectations

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Abstract

Objectives

During their careers, all doctors will be involved in the care of the dying, and this is likely to increase with current demographic trends. Future doctors need to be well-prepared for this. Little is known about medical students’ expectations about providing palliative care. Our aim was to investigate how satisfying students expect palliative care to be, and any attitudes towards palliative care associated with a negative expectation.

Methods

Fifteen UK medical schools participated in the study, with 1898 first and final year students completing an online questionnaire which investigated how satisfying they expect providing palliative care to be and their attitudes towards palliative care.

Results

At both the beginning and end of their training, a significant proportion of students expect palliative care to be less satisfying than other care (19.3% first year, 16% final year). Students expecting palliative care to be less satisfying were more likely to be men, and their attitudes suggest that while they understand the importance of providing palliative care they are concerned about the potential impact of this kind of work on them personally.

Conclusions

Medical student education needs to address why palliative care is important and how to deliver it effectively, and the strategies for dealing positively with the impact of this work on future clinicians.

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