Chairman of Scottish palliative care charity PATCH, Sir Michael Nairn visited Ninewells to meet clinicians and final year medical students involved in an innovative communications programme.
Palliation and the Caring Hospital (PATCH) has donated £34,000 to support clinicians and communication skills tutors to create and deliver a specialist course for medical students tackling end-of-life conversations. This course is supported by NHS Tayside and the University of Dundee and is part of a four-year charity-funded project.
Sir Michael participated in one of the teaching sessions funded by the charity. He was welcomed by palliative medicine consultant Dr Fiona McFatter, who explained the importance of the communication sessions which are now delivered as a core part of the medical undergraduate course.
PATCH is the first charity specifically to support 24/7 specialist palliative care for patients in hospital, by funding hospitals to provide resources such as dedicated beds, staff training, advisory services and research.
Dr McFatter, who is also undergraduate teaching lead for palliative medicine, said, “We are delighted that PATCH is supporting this very important project. Research shows that medical students and junior doctors do not feel well prepared for talking with patients and relatives about end of life care and dying.
“This project will help to improve communication around death and dying and, in doing so, help meet patients’ wishes at the end of life.”
The course aims to help students manage difficult conversations with families and patients, focusing on care in the last weeks of life, treatment decisions and their wishes for end-of-life care. The aim is to prepare students for work as foundation doctors and enable them to have these conversations in a supportive and sensitive way that helps patients and their families.
Sir Michael Nairn said, “I am delighted to have seen firsthand the outstanding work being done by Ninewells Hospital and the University of Dundee Medical School in the training of medical students in such an important aspect of their future professional work.
“Modern medicine is impressively advanced in so many ways, but life will come to its end for all of us and the doctor will so often play a pivotal role in events leading to death – both with the patient and the members of the patient’s close family.
“This course, I am sure, will contribute significantly towards giving confidence to young doctors in sensitive handling of difficult emotional issues for patients and their families in times of great personal stress.”
Final year medical students were introduced to challenging scenarios through videos, group discussions and simulated patient consultations which explored the sensitive subjects of dying, death and bereavement.
Sir Michael also took the opportunity to meet with clinicians who developed the course and to chat with final year medical students and hear feedback on the difference the course made to them. He was also able to speak with the simulated patients who are integral to the success of the course.