Evaluation of Medical Students’ Knowledge of Palliative Care

ABSTRACT Background There is a growing need to use palliative care (and support care) in health areas, particularly in Medicine. This is due to an aging population and the increased prevalence of chronic non-communicable diseases, especially metastatic cancer and advanced dementia. Thus, it is very important to start the teaching-learning process in palliative care during undergraduate medical training. Purpose To evaluate: (1) knowledge in palliative care (KPC) among medical students at the Escola Superior de Ciências da Saúde medical school (Brasília, DF), and (2) the gain in KPC among first, fourth and sixth-year students. Method A cross-sectional study involved the application of an anonymous questionnaire with questions about age, gender, and 19 questions about KPC. These questionnaires were applied separately to the students. The Kolmogorov-Smirnov test was applied. Thereafter, the Kruskal-Wallis test compared the 3 groups (first, fourth and sixth year students), and when any statistically significant difference was verified, post hoc analysis was performed using the Mann-Whitney test with Bonferroni correction (p < 0.016).Results: The study included 193 students (inclusion rate: 76.8%; 95%CI: 71.0%-81.8%), 23.6±4.3 years-old, 100 women (51.8%). The median KPC(interquartile) scores based on the number of correct responses per student of the first, fourth and sixth year of the course were: 4.00(2.00-5.00), 10.00(9.00-12.75), 12.00(10.25-14.00), respectively (p <0.001). When directly comparing the first and fourth year students, and the first and sixth year students, the statistical difference persists (p <0.001 and p <0.001, respectively); but the analysis between fourth and sixth year students shows no statistical difference (p=0.041). Conclusion KPC among our students is limited, and KPC gain between the fourth and sixth years of study was not statistically significant. This shows the need to improve the process of teaching and learning in palliative care, especially in internship scenarios.