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Long-term effects of an undergraduate palliative care course: a prospective cohort study in El Salvador

Abstract

Background International organisations recommend the inclusion of palliative care undergraduate education as a way to meet increasing demand; the long-term effects, however, are unknown. Since 2013 the Dr José Matías Delgado University has offered an undergraduate course for palliative care.

Aims To assess whether a palliative care course results in improvement in self-perceived comfort among students and if it lasts up to 4 years later; and to examine students’ knowledge of palliative care and assess the relationship between comfort and knowledge.

Design This is a prospective cohort study where students attending the course were requested to complete the Scale of Self-Perceived Comfort in palliative care pre and post course. Participants were contacted in 2018 and a group without palliative care education was established as a control group, matched one-to-one according to current academic level. They were asked to complete the Scale of Self-Perceived Comfort questionnaire together with the Palliative Care Knowledge Test.

Settings/participants 83 students who attended the course between the years 2014 and 2017 and 101 controls.

Results In the postcourse test, participants had a 1.13-point increase (p≤0.001) in comfort, which persisted 4 years later and was superior to the control group by 0.6 points (p≤0.001). The control group showed no difference in the precourse test despite having more clinical experience (p=0.68). The students outscored the control group in the knowledge test by 4.2 points (p≤0.001). There appears to be no correlation between comfort and knowledge.

Conclusion A palliative care undergraduate course results in improvement in student comfort and knowledge which persists up to 4 years later.

  • education and training
  • communication
  • symptoms and symptom management

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