Medical their education student about perceptions of their education about suffering

Thomas R. Egnew, Peter R. Lewis, Kimberly R. Myers, William R. Phillips

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


Background and Objectives: To explore student perceptions of their medical school teaching and learning about human suffering and to elicit student recommendations for better approaches to teaching about suffering. Methods: Qualitative study involving focus groups of students from each class at two US medical schools. RESULTS: Students reported that teaching about human suffering was variable, rarely explicit, and occurred primarily in the pre-clinical curriculum. In the clinical curriculum, addressing patient suffering was neither overtly valued nor evaluated by attending physicians. Students perceived little or no explicit educational attention to the suffering of patients and their families, with the exceptions of specific rotations and attendings. They described little or no teaching of clinical skills to identify and manage suffering and desired such training. Students learned about the clinical management of suffering primarily by ad hoc observation of role models. Some also noted that exposure to patient suffering and the demands of medical education contributed to their own suffering. Students recommended intentional, integrated and longitudinal teaching about suffering, with regular reinforcement and evaluation, across the medical school curriculum. Conclusions: Students perceived teaching about human suffering as insufficient at the institutions studied and desired to learn clinical skills to identify and help patients manage suffering. Medical educators should explicitly address patient suffering and create longitudinal curricula with improved clinical teaching, faculty role modeling, and student evaluation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)423-429
Number of pages7
JournalFamily medicine
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 2017

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Family Practice


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