Early Exposure to Palliative Care Benefits Medical Students

By Petrina Smith
Wednesday, 11 March, 2015

A survey of medical students has found that those who were exposed to training in palliative care early in their studies benefited greatly from the experience.
The survey, undertaken with a group of medical students from the University of Adelaide, showed early exposure to palliative care  enhanced their professionalism and communication with all aspects of care. S The results of the study are published in this month's issue of the journal Academic Medicine.
Research corresponding author Dr Greg Crawford, an Associate Professor of Palliative Medicine at the University of Adelaide, said end of life can be very challenging not only for patients and their families, but also for staff and students involved in their care.
"However, based on the results of our sample group the feedback from students has been extremely positive," he says.  
Associate Professor Crawford says two main themes were identified in the study:
"The first theme is that students were initially apprehensive about the issue of death and dying, but each of the students felt that their learning experiences gave them a sense of control over their interactions with patients and families. It helped to develop their confidence," he says.
"The second main theme is that students gained a stronger sense of perspective about the practice of medicine. This positive influence not only was present when caring for patients at the end of life but also influenced the students' overall identity as medical practitioners.
"As a result, we've seen enhanced competencies of professionalism, patient-centered medicine, psychosocial and spiritual aspects of palliative care, communication, teamwork, and self-awareness," he says.
Associate Professor Crawford says learning palliative medicine could help to make a difference to the training of all medical students.
"Not all Australian medical students are currently exposed to palliative care. However, physicians trained in palliative medicine may be better prepared to contribute to a healthcare system that is person-centered, and it may help to make their careers more personally fulfilling," he says.

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