Palliative care education in the undergraduate medical curricula: students' views on the importance of, their confidence in, and knowledge of palliative care

Jolien Pieters*, Diana H. J. M. Dolmans, Danielle M. L. Verstegen, Franca C. Warmenhoven, Annemie M. Courtens, Marieke H. J. van den Beuken-van Everdingen

*Corresponding author for this work

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Background The need for palliative care is increasing. Since almost every junior doctor will come across palliative care patients, it is important to include palliative care in the undergraduate curriculum. The objective of this research is to gather undergraduate students' views on palliative care in terms of its importance, their confidence in and knowledge of the domain. Methods Final-year medical students at four Dutch medical faculties were surveyed. The questionnaire measured their views on the education they had received, their self-reported confidence in dealing with palliative care patients and their knowledge of palliative care. Results Two hundred twenty-two medical students participated in this study. Students considered palliative care education relevant, especially training in patient-oriented care and communication with the patient. Students felt that several topics were inadequately covered in the curriculum. Overall, the students did not feel confident in providing palliative care (59.6%), especially in dealing with the spiritual aspect of palliative care (77%). The knowledge test shows that only 48% of the students answered more than half of the questions correctly. Conclusion The students in this study are nearly junior doctors who will soon have to care for palliative patients. Although they think that palliative care is important, in their opinion the curriculum did not cover many important aspects, a perception that is also in line with their lack of confidence and knowledge in this domain. Therefore, it is important to improve palliative care education in the medical curriculum.

Original languageEnglish
Article number72
Number of pages7
JournalBMC Palliative Care
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 28 Aug 2019


  • Undergraduate medical education
  • Students
  • Palliative care
  • END

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