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24 What concerns do medical students have when faced with caring for a dying patient?
  1. Ben Dietsch,
  2. Jane Wale and
  3. Zana Saunders
  1. Willen Hospice, Milton Keynes University Hospital, University of Buckingham Medical School, Open University


Background Existing research suggests that:

  • Students are highly interested in palliative care competencies and appreciate formal curriculum covering competencies, in conjunction with opportunity to learn skills experientially.

  • Palliative care encompasses a range of skills and knowledge which can potentially be addressed in a variety of ways (eg through lectures, SSMs, communication skills and reflection).

  • Palliative care curricula for undergraduate medical students could creatively cover this breadth of knowledge/skills using learning modalities.

However, curriculum tend to be developed based upon the knowledge and skills that professionals feel students should have. There is little research that considers the specific concerns and learning needs identified by medical students themselves, in response to open questioning.

Methods Third year medical students, were asked to reflect on their experience of seeing dying patients, both on the wards and in the media and to answer the open question ‘What concerns do you have about caring for a dying patient?’ Their responses were collated and analysed for themes.

Results Medical students identified a range of concerns and potential learning needs. These included knowledge based competencies (such as managing of pain and symptoms; 20.8%); ethical and legal issues (33.3%) but mostly a desire to provide patient-centred care, respecting the patient‘s wishes and autonomy (41.7%). 20.8% of students identified their own personal concerns when caring for the dying, Interestingly, an explicit concern about communication was raised by just 12.5%, but communication issues were implicit in 37.5% responses.

Conclusions In response to an open question, third year medical students identified insightful concerns about caring for the dying. These themes could be readily addressed through a variety of teaching styles and will influence the Buckingham Medical School palliative care curriculum.

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