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Palliative care medical student education: a cross-sectional medical school survey in mainland China
  1. Guanchen Ye1,
  2. Jiahui Mao2,
  3. Jingjing Hu3,
  4. Jie Chen4 and
  5. Therese Hesketh5
  1. 1The Stomatologic Hospital, School of Medicine, Zhejiang University, Hangzhou, China
  2. 2Zhejiang University School of Medicine, Hangzhou, Zhejiang, China
  3. 3Zhejiang University School of Medicine, Hangzhou, Zhejiang, China
  4. 4Zhejiang University School of Medicine, Centre for Global Health, Hangzhou, China
  5. 5Institute for Global Health, UCL, London, UK
  1. Correspondence to Dr Jie Chen, Zhejiang University School of Medicine, Centre for Global Health, Hangzhou, China; med_chenjie{at}


Objective According to the 2015 Quality of Death Index, China ranks 71st in terms of quality of palliative care out of 80 countries. Lack of palliative care education for health professionals is regarded as largely responsible. The study aims to evaluate the status of palliative care education for medical students in mainland China.

Methods A list of all medical schools was obtained from the Ministry of Education. A telephone survey of associate deans responsible for medical education at all 282 medical schools in mainland China was conducted in May 2019, following a standardised protocol. Telephone interviews focused on attitudes to palliative care teaching and the extent and manner in which palliative care is incorporated into the curriculum.

Results Associate deans from 173 (61.2%) of the 282 medical schools responded. A total of 120 schools (42.5%) completed the interview, while 53 (18.7%) evaded direct questions related to palliative care. Of the responding deans, 92 (76.7%) regarded palliative care education as very important. However, only 11 (9.2%) provided specific teaching on palliative care. A few schools (n=18) integrated palliative care education within required curricula, such as medical ethics and nursing science. The main reason reported for not providing palliative care education was that the medical curriculum dictated by the Ministry of Education does not require it.

Conclusion A very small minority of medical schools in mainland China have any formal teaching about palliative care. Clearly, national standards for didactic and clinical teaching in palliative care for medical students and other health professionals are needed.

  • palliative care
  • medical education
  • China

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  • Presented at This study was previously presented as an abstract at The Lancet-CAMS Health Summit, 2019.

  • Contributors GY, JC and TH contributed to the design of the study and the data analysis. GY, JM, JH and TH contributed to the writing and revision of the paper. All authors have read and approved the final manuscript.

  • Funding This work was supported by Start-up Funds for Foreign Experts of Zhejiang University.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Patient consent for publication Not required.

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

  • Data availability statement All data relevant to the study are included in the article.

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