Thursday, March 30, 2017
Doctors learn about several important issues upon starting medical school, but what about learning how to talk with patients about death and dying? Effective end-of-life conversations—discussing how long patients will survive, what dying is actually like, and whether spirituality plays a role in a patient’s last moment—can be hard to grasp. At first glance, one might think that physicians’ poor understanding about these tough conversations is baffling, especially because of their role as custodians of health across the lifespan. But if you look deeper, perhaps it is less the attitude of the physicians and more of the system that nurtures them. Physicians actually get little training on how to confront death. Understanding how a transparent communication strategy can ease a patient’s pain and suffering plays a vital role in a patient’s point of view. However, it is still unclear on how this lack of preparedness arises—whether by personal difficulty talking about such a sensitive topic, an inadequate medical curriculum, or lack of training during residency. One way to address these deficiencies is to incorporate a course into the medical school curriculum; another way is to have senior physicians start taking more active roles as mentors.
See Junaid Nabi, Learning to Talk About Death and Dying Should Start Early in Doctors’ Careers, Fox News, March 27, 2017.