Teaching and training in breaking bad news at the Dutch medical schools: A comparison

E. M. van Weel-Baumgarten*, M. Brouwers, F. Grosfeld, F. Jongen Hermus, J. Van Dalen, B. Bonke

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Background: Physicians consider breaking bad news (BBN) a difficult task, and training is therefore necessary. There is much variety in what schools consider to be best practice and best timing for such training. This article discusses BBN-programmes at the Dutch medical schools. We studied how students value their training and offer recommendations. Methods: We developed two questionnaires to obtain programme information from course co-ordinators and student opinions about BBN-training. We compared student opinions right after BBN-training (T1) and towards the end of the medical curriculum (T2). Results: BBN-programmes in Dutch medical schools vary in timing, models used and training methods. Overall, students are satisfied with the timing. They appreciate feedback by physicians and simulated patients most. At T2, some groups of students reported that BBN-training had given them slightly less guidance than was reported by T1-students at the same institution. Discussion: T2-students perhaps realised they had not received the amount of support they needed and may have shifted from being unconsciously incompetent to being consciously incompetent. Recommendations: We recommend: (a) longitudinal programmes with experiential skills-training sessions and clinical practice, (b) to involve simulated patients, physicians and psychologists in training programmes as well as practising physicians who supervise students during clinical work and (c) to ensure ongoing support and feedback in the clinical phase.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)373-381
JournalMedical Teacher
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 2012


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