Care at the end of life: a novel curriculum module implemented by medical students

Jared W Magnani, Melissa A Minor, Jon Matthew Aldrich
Academic Medicine 2002, 77 (4): 292-8
End-of-life (EOL) and palliative care education in medical school curricula stand at a crossroads. Consensus has emerged that these topics merit systematic instruction throughout medical school training, yet curricula all too often consist of sporadic lectures focused on bioethics instead of clinical skills. The medical student authors identified a deficit in their curriculum, and designed and implemented an EOL curriculum module for their colleagues. In early 2000 the authors surveyed senior medical students about their experiences with EOL and palliative education, identifying deficits in clinical training and recommendations for interventions. They then designed a case-based educational module to teach EOL communication skills to medical students commencing clinical training. Faculty with national and local experience with EOL and palliative care reviewed the curriculum. Twelve of these faculty were oriented to the curriculum and then taught it in pairs to groups of 12 to 16 medical students in 2000 and 2001. The curriculum develops skills, attitudes, and knowledge relevant for communicating bad news and establishing treatment options in the EOL setting by utilizing trigger videos, group discussion, role plays, and case discussions. Approximately 75% of the 86 eligible students attended the module in 2000 and 2001. Feedback has guided the curriculum's refinement by the medical student authors. In addition, a standardized patient exercise, introduced in 2001, allowed students to reinforce the skills learned during the module.

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