The preclinical years of medical education have rich potential for preparing medical students to provide optimal end-of-life care. Most of the opportunities and settings for this education already exist in the curricula of most medical schools, although they are underutilized for this purpose. In this report The Working Group on the Pre-clinical Years of the National Consensus Conference on Medical Education for Care Near the End of Life identifies the most promising settings and suggests how they might be used for maximum benefit in end-of-life education. Basic end-of-life care competencies are in five domains: (1) psychological, sociologic, cultural, and spiritual issues; (2) interviewing and communications skills; (3) management of common symptoms; (4) ethical issues; and (5) self-knowledge and self-reflection. A centralized group should oversee educational activities related to end-of-life care at each medical school. This group would identify and facilitate teaching opportunities in the preclinical curriculum: basic science courses; problem-based learning seminars; courses in interviewing, the doctor-patient relationship, and introduction to clinical medicine; courses in ethics, humanities, and the social-behavioral sciences; clinical preceptorships; and longitudinal experiences with patients. The group would also assess the potential impact of the 'hidden curriculum'.
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