How do junior doctors in the UK learn to provide end of life care: a qualitative evaluation of postgraduate education

Sophie Price (Lead / Corresponding author), Susie Schofield

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16 Citations (Scopus)



The fundamental importance of good end of life care has been well documented however recent national publications have high-lighted inadequacies in training in this area. For many patients dying in the UK today care is provided in hospital and the number of inpatient deaths is forecast to climb significantly in future. The demands of providing medical care for these patients by junior doctors will continue to rise. However, there is currently only limited research on training for doctors in this setting.

A qualitative study using semi-structured interviews of trainees working in general medicine analysed utilising a grounded theory approach.

Eleven medical trainees from nine different medical schools participated. They had worked in fifteen different UK hospitals in the course of their careers. All of the doctors interviewed felt generally confident in managing a dying patient. This had developed at postgraduate level and increased when working in certain key specialties. Emerging themes fell into five main categories: perceived ability in clinical management, different learning opportunities experienced, the impact of variations in approach to end of life care, the role of the specialist palliative care team and suggestions for improvements to training. All participants felt further teaching would be beneficial.

This study identified key areas where training could be improved. This included small changes in everyday practice to shift the emphasis for trainees to education. There also needs to be focus on end of life care in the curriculum, formal teaching programmes and assessment of junior doctors. The specialist palliative care team played a vital role in training as well as service provision. For those working in this specialty, every clinical encounter provides an opportunity for education. Specifically targeting junior doctors will not only improve patient care today but empower the consultants of the future.
Original languageEnglish
Article number45
Number of pages8
JournalBMC Palliative Care
Publication statusPublished - 23 Sept 2015


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