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Teaching the difficult-to-teach topics
  1. Anna MacPherson1,
  2. Iain Lawrie2,3,
  3. Sarah Collins3 and
  4. Louise Forman3,4
  1. 1East Lancashire Hospitals NHS Trust, Blackburn, UK
  2. 2The Pennine Acute Hospitals NHS Trust, Manchester, UK
  3. 3Manchester Medical School, University of Manchester, Manchester, UK
  4. 4Lancashire Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, Preston, UK
  1. Correspondence to Dr Anna MacPherson, Pendleside Hospice, Colne Road, Reedley, Burnley, Lancashire BB10 2LW, UK; anna_macpherson{at}


It is now accepted that teaching in palliative medicine should be integrated throughout the medical undergraduate curriculum. Recommendations suggest the inclusion of knowledge areas such as symptom control, as well as more attitudinal aspects such as teamwork and understanding patient and carer perspectives on illness. These subjects should be taught on a stepwise basis, introducing concepts at an early stage and then be built on throughout training. However, how this is done and how effectively all aspects are taught vary considerably. This article outlines one way of using patient and carer experiences of significant illness, and multi-disciplinary teams, to teach attitudinal concepts behind palliative care to medical students early in their undergraduate careers. Palliative care is considered here in a broad sense, with the relevance to all healthcare professionals emphasised, and specialist palliative care used as an example of holistic care. The sessions consisted of small group discussions with patient and carer representatives as well as discussions with various members of the multi-disciplinary team. These were led by the patient/carer/professionals’ experiences and further explored with facilitated questions by the students. The sessions have been evaluated well by all involved, including patients, carers, multi-disciplinary team members and palliative medicine doctors. The learning objectives (to understand patient perspectives, multi-disciplinary working and holistic care) were achieved, along with discussion of professionalism.

  • Education and training
  • Supportive care
  • Patients
  • Carers
  • Experience
  • Significant illness

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