Anneser, Johanna; Kunath, Nicolas; Krautheim, Veronika; Borasio, Gian D
Needs, expectations, and concerns of medical students regarding end-of-life issues before the introduction of a mandatory undergraduate palliative care curriculum.
In the past, implementation of effective palliative care curricula has emerged as a priority in medical education. In order to gain insight into medical students' needs and expectations, we conducted a survey before mandatory palliative care education was introduced in our faculty.Seven hundred nine students answered a questionnaire mainly consisting of numeric rating scales (0-10).Participants attributed a high importance to palliative care for their future professional life (mean, 7.51 ± 2.2). For most students, symptom control was crucial (7.72 ± 2.2). However, even higher importance was assigned to ethical and legal issues (8.16 ± 1.9). "Self-reflection regarding their own role as a physician caring for the terminally ill along with psychological support" was also regarded as highly important (7.25 ± 2.4). Most students were moderately concerned at the prospect of being confronted with suffering and death (5.13 ± 2.4). This emotional distress was rated significantly higher by female students (5.4 ± 2.4 versus 4.6 ± 2.4; p < 0.001). Seventeen percent of all students rated their distress as being 7 of 10 or higher, which indicates a considerable psychological strain in terms of dealing with end-of-life issues in the future. Professional or personal experience with terminally ill persons lowered these anxieties significantly (4.99 ± 2.34 versus 5.47 ± 2.5, p < 0.05).Medical students stated a remarkably high interest in learning palliative care competencies. Responding to their specific concerns and needs-especially with regard to the acquisition of emotional coping skills-may be key for the development of successful palliative care curricula.