Purpose: Internal medicine residents frequently provide end-of-life care, yet feel inadequately trained and uncomfortable providing this care, despite efforts to improve end-of-life care curricula. Understanding how residents' experiences and attitudes affect their perceived competence in providing end-of-life care is important for targeting educational interventions.
Method: Medicine residents (74) at the University of Washington and Medical University of South Carolina enrolled in a trial investigating the efficacy of a communication skills intervention to improve end-of-life care. On entry to the study in the fall of 2007, residents completed a questionnaire assessing their prior experiences, attitudes, and perceived competence with end-of-life care. Multivariate regression analysis was performed to assess whether attitudes and experiences with end-of-life care were associated with perceived competence, controlling for gender, race/ethnicity, training year, training site, and personal experience with death of a loved one.
Results: Residents had substantial experience providing end-of-life care. In an adjusted multivariate model including attitudes and clinical experience in end-of-life care as predictors, only clinical experience providing end-of-life care was associated with self-perceived competence (P = .015).
Conclusions: Residents with more clinical experience during training had greater self-perceived competence providing end-of-life care. Increasing the quantity and quality of the end-of-life care experiences during residency with appropriate supervision and role modeling may lead to enhanced skill development and improve the quality of end-of-life care. The results suggest that cultivating bedside learning opportunities during residency is an appropriate focus for educational interventions in end-of-life care education.