Palliative care clinical rotations among undergraduate and postgraduate medical trainees in Canada: a descriptive study Journal Articles uri icon

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  • BACKGROUND: The number of medical undergraduate and postgraduate students completing palliative care clinical rotations in Canadian medical schools is currently unknown. The aim of this study was to assess the proportion of Canadian medical trainees completing clinical rotations in palliative care and to determine whether changes took place between 2008 and 2018. METHODS: In this descriptive study, all Canadian medical schools (n = 17) were invited to provide data at the undergraduate and postgraduate levels (2007/08-2015/16 and 2007/08-2017/18, respectively). Information collected included the number, type and length of palliative care clinical rotations offered and the total number of medical trainees or residents enrolled at each school. RESULTS: All 17 Canadian medical schools responded to the request for information. At the undergraduate level, palliative care clinical rotations were not offered in 2 schools, mandatory in 2 and optional in 13. Three schools that offered optional rotations were unable to provide complete data and were therefore excluded from further analyses. In 2015/16, only 29.7% of undergraduate medical students completed palliative care clinical rotations, yet this was a significant improvement compared to 2011/12 (13.6%, p = 0.02). At the postgraduate level, on average, 57.9% of family medicine trainees completed such rotations between 2007/08 and 2016/17. During the same period, palliative care clinical rotations were completed by trainees in specialty or subspecialty programs in anesthesiology (34.2%), geriatric medicine (64.4%), internal medicine (30.9%), neurology (28.2%) and psychiatry (64.5%). INTERPRETATION: Between 2008 and 2018, a large proportion of Canadian medical trainees graduated without the benefit of a clinical rotation in palliative care. Without dedicated clinical exposure to palliative care, many physicians will enter practice without vital palliative care competencies.


  • Gagnon, Bruno
  • Boyle, Anne
  • Jolicoeur, Fabienne
  • Labonté, Mauranne
  • Taylor, Kim
  • Downar, James

publication date

  • April 2020