Background Medical students have opportunities to learn about palliative care from talking to patients in a hospice (1). This resource is not fully used, in part due to concerns about patient and student welfare(2). The authors aimed to explore the perceptions and experiences of students talking to patients in a hospice.
Method Semistructured ‘indepth’ interviews of 14 medical students, from a medical school in the North East of England, who had spoken with hospice patients as part of their undergraduate education.
Findings Overall students found the experience very valuable. Themes arising from the data included: student emotional and personal issues; effect of the hospice environment, staff and patients; learning opportunities and impact of the experience. Despite prior anxieties that the hospice would be depressing and that they would struggle emotionally talking to hospice patients, the visit transformed this view. Other concerns included facing death and dying. After their experience the students felt they would be more able to care for people at the end of life when they qualified. They found that the hospice staff and patients were very supportive and contributed to this change. Opinion varied about the best time to attend hospice during their training but the overall view was that this was less important than the availability of adequate support. The main criticism was that there was insufficient time in the programmed hospice visit and there was a preference for the immersion possible during the longer placement of a student selected component. Illustrative quotes will be used throughout.
Conclusion Students are overwhelmingly positive about communicating with patients in a hospice and see it as unique environment in which they can learn vital skills.
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