Improved competence after a palliative care course for internal medicine residents

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Abstract

Residents report that they received inadequate teaching in palliative care and low levels of comfort and skills when taking care of dying patients. This study describes the effects of a problem-based palliative care course on perceived competence and knowledge in a representative Dutch cohort of residents in internal medicine. Before and after the course, we carried out a questionnaire survey and knowledge test in 91 residents. The results show that many residents felt they had limited competence or were incompetent when taking care of patients in the palliative care phase. This was particularly true with respect to communication concerning euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide or hastened death (86% and 85% respectively reported limited competence or incompetence). Participants reported that they received inadequate training in palliative care and believed that specific education would make them feel more competent. The number of times that residents were engaged in palliative care situations and the years of clinical experience had a positive influence on perceived competence. Participating in the course improved perceived competence and knowledge in palliative care. No correlation was found between perceived competence and knowledge of palliative care.

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