Article Text

Download PDFPDF
Preparing future doctors for palliative care: views of course organisers
  1. Steven Walker1,2,3,
  2. Jane Gibbins4,
  3. Paul Paes5,
  4. Stephen Barclay6,
  5. Astrid Adams7,
  6. Madawa Chandratilake2,8,
  7. Faye Gishen1,9,
  8. Philip Lodge1,9 and
  9. Bee Wee7
  1. 1Marie Curie Hospice, Hampstead, London, UK
  2. 2Centre for Medical Education, University of Dundee, UK
  3. 3Stgilesmedical, London, UK
  4. 4Cornwall Hospice Care, Royal Cornwall Hospital, Truro & Peninsula Medical School, UK
  5. 5Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust & Newcastle University, Newcastle, UK
  6. 6University of Cambridge, Cambridge, UK
  7. 7Sir Michael Sobell House & University of Oxford, Oxford, UK
  8. 8Faculty of Medicine, University of Kelaniya, Kelaniya, Sri Lanka
  9. 9University College London & Royal Free Hospital, London, UK
  1. Correspondence to Dr Steven Walker, Stgilesmedical London & Berlin, The Vestry House, St Giles High Street, London WC2H 8LG, UK; steven.walker{at}


Background Effective training at medical school is essential to prepare new doctors to safely manage patients with palliative care (PC) and end of life care (EOLC) needs. The contribution of undergraduate PC course organisers is central but their collective views regarding role are unknown.

Objective To survey attitudes of PC course organisers regarding their course, organisation, the adequacy of training provided and level of personal satisfaction.

Methods An anonymised, multifactorial, web-based questionnaire was devised, tested, modified and then sent to lead PC course organisers at all UK medical schools.

Results Data were obtained from all 30 UK medical schools. Organisers agreed/strongly agreed (=agreed) that their PC course was highly rated by students (26, 87%). 25 (83%) agreed their course ‘enabled misconceptions and fears about PC, death, dying and bereavement to be addressed’, ‘delivered quality PC training’ (23, 77%), ‘fulfilled General Medical Council requirements’ (19, 63%), ‘prepared students well to care for patients with PC/EOLC needs’ (18, 60%) and ‘enabled students to visit a hospice and see the role of doctors in caring for the dying’ (17, 57%). Concerns were limited capacity to accommodate students (agreed 20, 66%) and variability in teaching according to location (15, 50%). Most agreed their institution recognised PC training as important (22, 73%), they felt supported by colleagues (21, 70%) and experienced cooperation between stakeholders (20, 67%). All agreed that PC training was essential for undergraduates, while 29 (97%) supported inclusion of a hospice visit in the curriculum. 27 agreed that their role was satisfying (90%), 3 disagreed (10%).

Conclusions Approximately two-thirds of organisers were generally positive about their PC course, institution and role. A minority expressed concerns; these may reflect suboptimal PC training at their medical school and poor preparation of new doctors.

  • Education and training
  • Methodological research
  • Terminal care
  • Communication
  • Supportive care

Statistics from

Request Permissions

If you wish to reuse any or all of this article please use the link below which will take you to the Copyright Clearance Center’s RightsLink service. You will be able to get a quick price and instant permission to reuse the content in many different ways.


  • Twitter Follow Steven Walker @#TheMedEds

  • Contributors SW was responsible for the original concept which was subsequently combined with a similar proposal from BW, JG, SB, PP and AA. SW developed the questionnaire, sent it to respondents, collected and analysed the data and developed the first draft of the manuscript. JG, PP, AA, SB, MC and BW gave advice on methodology, trialled the questionnaire, helped with data analysis and interpretation, contributed modifications to the final manuscript and approved it contents. MC provided general advice and support at all points along this journey. PL and FG gave advice on methodology and undergraduate PC training, trialled the questionnaire, gave advice about data interpretation and contributed modifications to the final manuscript and approved its contents.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Ethics approval University of Dundee Research Ethical Committee (UREC 12073).

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

  • Data sharing statement The original questionnaire and all anonymised data are available from the corresponding author