Palliative care provision by medical practitioners will depend on their knowledge and attitudes regarding palliative care. Therefore, palliative care education should become an integral part of medical curriculum, which is currently lacking in Sri Lanka.
This study was done on students of Faculty of Medicine, University of Colombo. A self- administered questionnaire consisting of 57 questions testing knowledge and 21 statements to assess attitudes was used.
Sixty-eight-percent of students thought palliative care is pain medicine. Only 35.7% identified it as active care of the dying. Around half were able to identify correctly the instances where palliative care is needed. Only 48% knew it is a team effort. Less than one third were able to correctly identify common non-pain symptoms and less than one fourth gave correct answers to the questions on their management. Around half correctly answered the questions on pain management. Thirty-three percent beleived that morphine reduced all kinds of pain. Only 12.5% knew the role of morphine in releiving breathlessness in heart failure. Less than one third correctly identified the common side effects of morphine. Around half beleived that prognosis should be clearly communicated. Less than half were able to correctly identify the components of a good death. Only 22% beleived that they were familiar with the concept of palliative care. Twenty-four-percent felt that they were adequately trained to manage symptoms of the dying patient. Fifty-six-percent beleived that if they were exposed more to terminally ill patients, their thinking would change. Majority agreed that palliative care education should be included in the curriculum.
The results demonsrate inadequacies in the knowledge of palliative care among medical students and that they are not adequately prepared and lacks confidence in providing palliative care for patients. This emphasises the need for incorporating palliative care education into undergraduate medical curriculum.
Clinical trial identification
All authors have declared no conflicts of interest.