National Resource for Faculty Development in Palliative Care Set Up in New Center at Harvard Medical School

    • June 12, 2008

Field of Work: Palliative care at the end of life.

Problem Synopsis: In the late 1990s, several major reports documented shortcomings in end-of-life care and deficiencies in the way medical students and faculty were trained in palliative care. Palliative care was a growing field, but few faculty in medical schools and teaching hospitals had the experience and expertise to teach that care effectively.

Synopsis of the Work: Faculty and staff at the General Hospital Corporation-Massachusetts General Hospital, in collaboration with colleagues at the Dana Farber Cancer Institute, established the Harvard Medical School Center for Palliative Care, a national resource for faculty development in palliative care. The center, established in 2000, prepares health care providers and educators to develop educational initiatives and programs in palliative care at their own institutions.

Key Results

  • Developed the Program in Palliative Care Education and Practice, the center's primary curriculum to teach medical faculty from around the country how to develop a palliative care education program at their own institutions.

  • Trained approximately 500 U.S. health care providers in palliative care.

  • Revised the primary curriculum, added a pediatric track, developed two additional course offerings and began sponsoring a monthly Harvard Medical School Palliative Care Faculty Seminar.

Key Findings

  • In a follow-up survey of program participants, respondents said they substantially increased their time in palliative care practice (to 47 percent postprogram from 38 percent preprogram) and improved their use of palliative care best practices.

  • In the same survey, 90 percent of respondents reported launching palliative care programs at their own institutions, saying participation in the program was a key impetus.