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Teaching end-of-life communication: priorities, challenges, scope—systematic review
  1. Jack K H Pun1,
  2. Ka Man Cheung2 and
  3. Chung Hang James Chow2
  1. 1 Department of English, City University of Hong Kong, Kowloon, Hong Kong 0000
  2. 2 Department of Clinical Oncology, Queen Elizabeth Hospital, Hong Kong, Hong Kong 0000
  1. Correspondence to Dr Jack K H Pun, Department of English, City University of Hong Kong, Kowloon, Hong Kong; jack.pun{at}


Background Without a well-rounded syllabus to teach end-of-life (EOL) communication, medical providers find it challenging to enhance their patients’ quality of life at the final stage of life.

Aim The aim of this scoping review was to explore studies about the teaching of EOL communication and to detail how educators can approach the teaching of EOL communication.

Methods A scoping review of both qualitative and quantitative studies was conducted according to the methodological framework of scoping review. The PsycINFO, PubMed, ERIC, CINAHL and EMBASE databases were searched for studies using the keywords ‘teach’, ‘educat*’, ‘end of life’, ‘terminal care’, ‘communication’ and ‘palliative care’. Sixteen studies were appraised, and none was rejected on the grounds of quality.

Results The search strategy yielded 22 278 entries and 16 studies were included. Two themes were identified from the priorities in teaching EOL communication: (1) challenges to teaching EOL communication and (2) methods of teaching EOL communication. To present a comprehensive overview of EOL communication teaching, we provide directions for priorities of topics and approaches when teaching EOL communication.

Conclusions The review detailed the complexity of teaching EOL communication, which indicates the need for a well-rounded syllabus that includes skills such as non-verbal social cues, communication strategies and understanding EOL communication in various cultural contexts to facilitate a well-rounded EOL communication experience for students’ future practice.

  • communication
  • end of life care
  • education and training
  • cancer
  • terminal care

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  • Correction notice This article has been updated since it was first published. The article type has been changed to Systematic review.

  • Contributors JKHP contributed to the conception and design of the study. KMC and CHJC revised the study protocol. JKHP, KMC and CHJC contributed to the acquisition and analysis of data. JKHP evaluated the risk of bias of the included studies. JKHP and KMC interpreted the data. JKHP and KMC drafted the manuscript. All the authors critically revised the manuscript and gave the final approval of the version to be published.

  • Funding The authors have not declared a specific grant for this research from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

  • Supplemental material This content has been supplied by the author(s). It has not been vetted by BMJ Publishing Group Limited (BMJ) and may not have been peer-reviewed. Any opinions or recommendations discussed are solely those of the author(s) and are not endorsed by BMJ. BMJ disclaims all liability and responsibility arising from any reliance placed on the content. Where the content includes any translated material, BMJ does not warrant the accuracy and reliability of the translations (including but not limited to local regulations, clinical guidelines, terminology, drug names and drug dosages), and is not responsible for any error and/or omissions arising from translation and adaptation or otherwise.