Paediatric trainees and end-of-life care: a needs assessment for a formal educational intervention

Bonnie H. Arzuaga*, Leslie Ann Caldarelli

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


Background: Literature suggests a paucity of formal training in end-of-life care in contemporary American medical education. Similar to trainees in adult medicine, paediatric trainees are frequently involved in end-of-life cases. Objective: To determine current experience and comfort levels among paediatric trainees when caring for dying patients with the hypothesis that more clinical experience alone would not improve comfort. Methods: Paediatric residents, subspeciality fellows and programme directors at the University of Chicago completed a voluntary electronic needs assessment in June and July 2013. Ten question pairs determined frequency of experiencing various aspects of end-of-life care in clinical practice and comfort levels during these encounters. Results: 118 respondents participated (63.8 % response rate): 66.4 % were female; 53 % had previous education in end-of-life care. The proportion of those with experience in end-of-life care increased through the third year of training, and remained at 1.0 thereafter. Conversely, positive comfort scores increased gradually throughout all six years of training to a maximum proportion of 0.45. Comfort in many specific aspects of care lagged behind experience. Previous education had a significant positive effect on comfort levels of most, but not all, aspects of care. 58 % or more of trainees desired further education on specific end-of-life topics. Conclusions: Paediatric trainees are often involved in end-of-life care but may not be comfortable in this role. More experience alone does not improve comfort levels; however, there is a positive correlation with comfort and previous education. Trainees had a strong interest in further education on a variety of end-of-life care topics.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)25-32
Number of pages8
JournalPerspectives on Medical Education
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 1 2015


  • End of life care
  • Graduate medical education
  • Paediatrics
  • Terminal care

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education


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