Last Words: Medical Faculties Learn How to Teach Care for the Dying

Beginning in 1998, the Stanford Faculty Development Center of Stanford University School of Medicine, Stanford, Calif., developed a curriculum for improving the teaching of end-of-life care in medical education.

They also trained faculty members from other medical schools and teaching hospitals to deliver the curriculum.

The project was part of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation's (RWJF) national program Targeted End-of-Life Projects Initiative.

Key Results

  • The center created and tested the End-of-Life Care Curriculum for Medical Teachers. The curriculum consists of a series of modules to be delivered as interactive two-hour seminars for groups of eight to 10 participants. Module topics in the original curriculum included:

    • Death and dying in the U.S.A.
    • Pain management.
    • Communication with patients and families.
    • Making difficult decisions.
    • Non-pain symptom management.
    • Venues and systems of care.
    • Psychosocial and spiritual aspects of care.

    An eighth module, on institutional change in health care organizations, was added for the web-based version of the curriculum.

  • The project team compiled a searchable bibliographic database of more than 1,700 articles and books on end-of-life care.

  • The project trained 17 medical faculty as trainers to deliver the end-of-life curriculum. The faculty came from medical schools, public and private hospitals, and one state medical society.

  • During the project period, the 17 trainers delivered either the complete seven-seminar series or an adaptation of the curriculum to almost 4,000 people.

  • Some 13 of the 17 trainers reported applying their training to establishing or augmenting palliative care services for patients at their home institutions.