Background: Palliative medicine is an important part of health care and increasingly needed, yet medical schools have placed a limited emphasis on end-of-life education. The purpose of this qualitative study was to gain insight into medical residents' education and training experiences in palliative medicine during residency.
Methods: Using a case study approach, seven residents were recruited from a southern osteopathic medical school to participate in individual interviews. The data were analyzed using NVivo 12 Pro software and a constant comparison approach. Four major themes emerged: confidence, preparedness, physician wellness, and the culture of medicine.
Results: Medical residents experience education and training in palliative medicine; however, the frequency and depth vary according to gender, specialty, and year of residency. Medical residents attribute life experiences, shadowing, and mentoring opportunities to higher levels of confidence and preparedness in palliative medicine. The overarching culture of medicine often instills a counter-intuitive response as training is naturally more focused on curing disease and saving lives. Residents regularly experience unresolved emotional distress, as well as feelings of being unprepared to communicate effectively with suffering and/or dying patients.
Conclusions: These findings suggest palliative medicine curricula need standardization and further development, including dedicated time for debriefing during clinical rotations and residencies for medical students to be optimally prepared for practice in this area of medicine.