BMJ Support Palliat Care doi:10.1136/bmjspcare-2012-000283
  • Education

The impact of a medical undergraduate student-selected module in palliative care

  1. Tony O'Brien1,2
  1. 1Marymount University Hospice/St Patricks University Hospital, Cork, Ireland
  2. 2School of Medicine, University College Cork, Cork, Ireland
  1. Correspondence to Dr Catherine Sweeney, School of Medicine, University College Cork, Brookfield Health Sciences Complex, College Road, Cork, Ireland; c.sweeney{at}


Background The need for undergraduate medical education in palliative care is widely recognised. An optional student-selected module ‘Fundamentals of Palliative Medicine’ was introduced in 2011 and offered to third-year medical students. The overall objective of the module was to develop students’ knowledge, attitudes and skills in palliative care.

Aim To assess impact of the module in terms of qualitative and quantitative measures, and to improve the module design and content for future years.

Methods Students completed validated tools (Self Efficacy in Palliative Care and Thanatophobia Scale (TS)) premodule and postmodule. A Minute Paper was completed at the penultimate session with students identifying areas they had a good understanding of, and issues they still found unclear.

Results Twenty-four of 155 eligible students chose the module. Significant differences were seen in premodule and postmodule Self Efficacy in Palliative Care scores (communication p<0.0001, patient management p=0.0002 and teamwork p=0.03). No difference was seen in TS score. Five main themes emerged from the qualitative analysis of the Minute Paper: changes to attitudes and knowledge, psychological effects, teaching methods, careers in palliative care, and further palliative care learning needs. Several students commented that the module should be core curriculum.

Conclusions The module was a popular choice with students, was well received, and appears to have had a significant educational impact in terms of changing students’ attitudes and perceived knowledge and skills in palliative care.

  • Received 11 May 2012.
  • Revision received 14 September 2012.
  • Accepted 16 February 2013.
  • Published Online First 8 March 2013

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