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‘The nice thing about doctors is that you can sometimes get a day off school’: an action research study to bring lived experiences from children, parents and hospice staff into medical students' preparation for practice
  1. Jessica Spalding1 and
  2. Sarah Yardley1,2
  1. 1Keele University Medical School, Keele, Staffordshire, UK
  2. 2Camden, Islington, UCLH & HCA Palliative Care Service, Central and North West London NHS Foundation Trust, Staffordshire, UK
  1. Correspondence to Dr Sarah Yardley, Consultant in Palliative Medicine and Honorary Lecturer in Medical Education Unit D, Well House, 23a Benwell Rd, London N77BL, UK; sarahyardley{at}


Patient and public involvement in healthcare is important to ensure services meet their needs and priorities. Increasingly, patient experiences are being used to educate healthcare professionals. The potential contribution to medical education of children and parents using hospice services has not yet been fully explored.

Objectives (1) To explore perceptions of what medical students must learn to become ‘good doctors’ among children, parents and staff in a hospice. (2) To collaborate with children/parents and staff to develop educational materials based on their lived experiences for medical students. (3) To assess feasibility of student-led action research in a children's hospice to develop research skills.

Methods Prospective ethical approval received. Volunteer children (n=7), parents (n=5) and staff (n=6) were recruited from a children's hospice. Data were generated in audio-recorded semistructured focus groups, individual interviews and/or activity workshops. Participants discussed what newly qualified doctors’ needed to care for children with life-limiting conditions. Audio data were transcribed and combined with visual data for thematic analysis. Findings were refined by participant feedback. This paper presents thematic findings and educational material created from the project.

Results Thematic analysis identified six learning themes: (1) treat children as individuals; (2) act as a person before being a doctor; (3) interpersonal communication; (4) appreciate the clinical environment; (5) learn from children, parents and other staff; (6) how to be a doctor as part of a team. The student researcher successfully developed qualitative research skills, coproducing materials with participants for sharing learning derived from lived experiences.

Conclusions All participants were willing and able to make valuable contributions, and believed that this was a worthwhile use of time and effort. Further work is required to understand how best to integrate the experiences of children in hospices into medical education.

  • Paediatrics
  • Hospice care
  • Education and training
  • Palliative care
  • Qualitative research

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  • Contributors SY is the guarantor of this paper. She supervised JS during the study which was initially conceived by JS. SY and JS worked collaboratively to design and conduct the study, analyse the findings and produce the resultant education materials. SY and JS have contributed to the writing of this paper and approved the final draft.

  • Funding An INSPIRE Award from the Academy of Medical Sciences funded JS to conduct this qualitative action study with clinical and academic supervision from SY in collaboration with a children's hospice. INSPIRE is designed to further medical students opportunities in undertaking research, with direct academic and clinical supervision from experts in their respective fields. This provides opportunity for students to learn transferable research skills and gain confidence to continue this throughout their clinical careers.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Ethics approval Prospective ethical approval was received from the University of Keele Medical School Ethics Committee.

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

  • Data sharing statement Data sharing was not permitted under the ethical approval of this study. Data have been archived at Keele University but is not publically available due to concerns regarding maintaining of the anonymity of participants.