Effectively training the hospice and palliative medicine physician workforce for improved end-of-life health care in the United States

Thomas Bui
American Journal of Hospice & Palliative Care 2012, 29 (6): 417-20
The widening gap between the demand for palliative care services and the supply of trained palliative care professionals has resulted in considerable end-of-life distress for patients. Without formal training in palliative medicine and end-of-life symptom management, physicians in the United States are less equipped to competently address seriously ill and dying patients' medical, emotional, and spiritual needs. Recent attempts within graduate medical education training deliberately seek to prepare a critical mass of physicians as the new hospice and palliative medicine workforce in the United States. In addition, healthcare reform proposals may re-define the National Health Service Corps (NHSC) post-graduate training over the next five years and the Hospice Medicare Benefit altogether. Healthcare policy options include steady changes at multiple levels of medical training -namely, medical school curriculum mandates, requiring all graduate physician residency training to foster patient-centered communication skills and discussions about advanced directives, and instituting palliative medicine proficiency Continuing Medical Education (CME) requirements for all states' medical licensing boards. Attracting qualified physicians to serve patients at the end of life, innovative medical school loan repayment programs and scholarships will also foster excellence in the field of hospice and palliative medicine. Correcting our current paucity of formal training in palliative medicine better utilizes hospice and restores patients' dignity at the end of life.


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