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Medical student confidence to care for a dying patient and their family: a systematic review

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posted on 2023-06-09, 20:14 authored by Geoffrey Wells, Elaney Youssef, Rebecca WinterRebecca Winter, Juliet Wright, Carrie LlewellynCarrie Llewellyn
Background: The General Medical Council expects medical graduates to care for dying patients with skill, clinical judgement and compassion. UK surveys continually demonstrate low confidence and increasing distress amongst junior doctors when providing care to the dying. Aim: This systematic review aims to determine what has been evidenced within worldwide literature regarding medical undergraduate confidence to care for dying patients. Design: A systematic electronic search was undertaken. Data extraction included measurements of baseline confidence, associated assessment tools, and details of applied educational interventions. Pre/post-intervention confidence comparisons were made. Factors influencing confidence levels were explored. The review was prospectively registered via PROSPERO (CRD42019119057). Data sources: MEDLINE, CINAHL, EMBASE, ISI Web of Science, ERIC, PsychINFO, British Education Index and Cochrane Review databases were accessed, with no restrictions on publication year. Eligible studies included the terms ‘medical student’, ‘confidence’, and ‘dying’, alongside appropriate MeSH headings. Study quality was assessed using the Mixed Methods Appraisal Tool. Results: Fifteen eligible studies were included, demonstrating a diversity of assessment tools. Student confidence was low in provision of symptom management, family support, and psycho-spiritual support to dying patients. Eight interventional studies demonstrated increased post-interventional confidence. Lack of undergraduate exposure to dying patients and lack of structure within undergraduate palliative care curricula were cited as factors responsible for low confidence. Conclusion: This review clarifies the objective documentation of medical undergraduate confidence to care for the dying. Identifying where teaching fails to prepare graduates for realities in clinical practice will help inform future undergraduate palliative care curriculum planning.


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BMJ Supportive and Palliative Care




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  • Division of Medical Education Publications

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