Teaching Palliative Care to Health Professional Students: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Randomized Controlled Trials

Jack Donne, Thomas Odrowaz, Sarah Pike, Bonnie Youl, Kristin Lo

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

12 Citations (Scopus)


Background: End-of-life care is challenging on health professionals’ mental and emotional state. Palliative care education can support health professional students’ transition, helping them to cope with the challenges of working in this complex setting. Students feel that they need more preparation in this area. Purpose: To collate the relevant information regarding how to teach health professional students about palliative care. Method: The full holdings of Medline, PsycINFO, EBM Reviews, Cinahl Plus, ERIC, and EMBASE via Elsevier were searched until April 7, 2019. Inclusion criteria were randomized controlled trials of group interventions that aimed to increase health professional students’ knowledge, skills, or attitudes in palliative care. Studies were appraised using the PEDro scale. Data were synthesized using meta-analysis. Results: The results favored the intervention and were statistically significant for knowledge and attitudes but not for skills. A 2-hour seminar accompanied by readings seems sufficient to improve both knowledge and attitudes. Quality assessment scores ranged from 1/10 to 7/10 (mean 5, standard deviation 1.73). When studies at high risk of bias were excluded, then only knowledge improved significantly. Key areas where rigor was lacking were in concealing the randomization, omitting intention-to-treat analysis and not blinding of participants, therapists, or assessors. Conclusions: Palliative care education is effective in improving health professional students’ knowledge and attitudes toward palliative care. More research is required into skill development. This review highlights the need for more high-quality trials in both the short and long-term to determine the most effective mode of palliative care education.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1026-1041
Number of pages16
JournalAmerican Journal of Hospice and Palliative Medicine
Issue number11
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2019


  • health professional student
  • medical education
  • palliative care
  • palliative care education

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