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Medical students’ experiences and perception of support following the death of a patient in the UK, and while overseas during their elective period
  1. Rachel Jones1,
  2. Fiona Finlay2
  1. 1Great Western Hospital, Swindon, UK
  2. 2Child Health Department, BANES PCT, Bath, UK
  1. Correspondence to Dr Fiona Finlay, Child Health Department, Sirona Care and Health, Newbridge Hill, Bath BA1 3QE, UK; Fiona.finlay{at}


Aims To investigate medical students’ experiences and perception of support following a patient's death, contrasting their experiences in the UK, and while overseas during their elective period.

Methods An anonymous online questionnaire was distributed to all final year medical students at one UK medical school in November 2009.

Results 220 students were contacted, 60% responded. 72% (94) of medical students had been involved in end-of-life care at some point during their course; students on elective experiencing patient death across all ages. Some students saw many patients dying during their elective period. Students had mixed emotions following a patient's death. In the UK, students reported feeling shocked, upset and sad. When overseas, many students were angry or frustrated, and many reported feelings of injustice. Following a death, students found talking to people beneficial, but when overseas they turned to friends and family using email and Facebook, rather than talking to local doctors and nurses. Only 13% (16) of medical students thought their medical training had prepared them sufficiently to deal with death. Of those who did feel prepared some said they had gained this knowledge through working as a healthcare assistant.

Conclusions Students feel ill prepared for experiencing the death of a patient. Even though they may have ‘medical knowledge’ they are still lacking in emotional support and are often inadequately supported around the time of a patient's death. Medical schools should consider their curricula so that students are aware of the possible experiences and emotions which they may face when involved with the death of a patient, and students should be given advice on whom to turn to for support.

  • Medical Education & Training

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