Recommendations for a New Curriculum in Pain Medicine for Medical Students: Toward a Career Distinguished by Competence and Compassion

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Abstract

Objective.

The education of physicians is a fundamental obligation within medicine that must remain closely aligned with clinical care. And although medical education in pain care is essential, the current state of medical education does not meet the needs of physicians, patients, or society. To address this, we convened a committee of pain specialist medical student educators.

Methods.

Tasked with creating systematically developed and valid recommendations for clinical education, we conducted a survey of pain medicine leadership within the American Academy of Pain Medicine (AAPM). The survey was conducted in two waves. We asked AAPM board members to rate 194 previously published pain medicine learning objectives for medical students; 79% of those eligible for participation responded.

Results.

The “Top 5” list included the awareness of acute and chronic pain, skillfulness in clinical appraisal, promotion of compassionate practices, displaying empathy toward the patient, and knowledge of terms and definitions for substance abuse. The “Top 10” list included the major pharmacological classes as well as skills in examination, communication, prescribing, and interviewing. The “Top 20” list included the pain care of cognitively impaired populations, those with comorbid illness, and older adults. With the survey results in consideration, the committee produced a new recommended topic list for curricula in pain medicine. We strongly recommend that adequate resources are devoted to fully integrated medical curricula in pain so that students will learn not only the necessary clinical knowledge but also be prepared to address the professional, personal, and ethical challenges that arise in caring for those with pain.

Conclusions.

We conclude that improved medical education in pain is essential to prepare providers who manifest both competence and compassion toward their patients.

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