A required third-year medical student palliative care curriculum impacts knowledge and attitudes

Laura J. Morrison, Britta M. Thompson, Anne C. Gill

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

52 Scopus citations


Background: Despite broad support for palliative and end-of-life care training in medical schools, required clinical palliative care and end-of-life experiences are rare. In this study, we assess the impact of a required palliative care educational intervention on medical students' palliative care pain knowledge and end-of-life attitudes. Methods: In this wait-list control crossover design, third-year medical students from two sequential classes (n=157) completed a palliative care workshop at the beginning of a required year-long course. Students then completed a patient experience, online pain management module, and reflective essay in either the first or second half of the course. Fifteen validated multiple choice palliative care pain management items and the Thanatophobia Scale (7 items) were administered to measure knowledge and attitudes for all students at baseline, 5.5 months, and 11 months. Multivariate repeated measures ANOVA was used to determine differences between groups and across time. Results: Analysis found statistically significant increases in knowledge and improvements in attitudes (p<0.001) across the time points as well as a statistically significant interaction effect between time and groups (p=0.006). These changes correspond to specific curricular intervention components in which attitudinal improvements are seen after the workshop, and knowledge increases are seen after the patient experience, online pain module, and reflective essay. Conclusion: A modest, required palliative care curriculum can yield improvements in medical student knowledge and attitudes. However, expansion of the experiential component and palliative care skills training and assessment are needed for students to have more meaningful outcomes and to ultimately contribute to better patient outcomes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)784-789
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of palliative medicine
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jul 1 2012

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Anesthesiology and Pain Medicine
  • General Nursing


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