Education in palliative medicine (PM) at medical schools reveals wide variation despite the increasing importance of palliative care. Many universities present poor description of the benefits and detailed content of the total curriculum in PM. Using the recommendations of European Association for Palliative Care (EAPC) as a reference, we evaluated the content and outcomes of the curriculum in PM at the University of Tampere, Finland.
We searched for a PM curriculum by examining the teaching offered by every specialty and compared it to EAPC recommendations. Students’ knowledge was evaluated using a progress test over three consecutive years.
We found 53.5 teaching hours addressing PM issues, which exceeds the recommendation of the EAPC. Basics, symptom management, ethics, and communication skills were well established, while education in psychosocial/spiritual aspects, teamwork and self-reflection failed to reach the recommendations. Out of the maximum of 4.0, the progress test mean scores in PM among the third, fourth, fifth and sixth year students were 0.1 (SD 0.71), 0.69 (SD 1.28), 1.38 (SD 1.46) and 2.53 (SD 1.26), respectively (p < 0.001). This growing knowledge was associated with the timely increase in teaching provided through the PM discipline. In addition, the students who completed the optional PM course achieved better mean scores (2.66; SD 1.27) than the others (1.33; SD 1.43) (p < 0.001).
The curriculum in PM at the University of Tampere is integrated into the teaching of many disciplines and complied well with the EAPC recommendations. This education led to increasing knowledge in PM among medical students.