Position paper on undergraduate Palliative Medicine education for doctors in South Africa

Henriette Burger*, Rene Krause, Charmaine Blanchard, Julia Ambler, Linda Ganca, Alan Barnard, Michelle Meiring, Mpho Ratshikana-Moloko, Hanneke Brits, Tracey Brand, Mitchell Scott, Langalibalele Mabuza, Martin Bac, Nozuko Zele-Mqonci, Parimalaranie Yogeswaran, Liz Gwyther

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Citations (Scopus)


Background: Basic palliative care teaching should be included in training curricula for health care providers (HCPs) at all levels of the health service to ensure that the goal set by the South African (SA) National Policy Framework and Strategy for Palliative Care, to have an adequate number of appropriately trained HCPs in South Africa, is achieved. Furthermore, palliative learning objectives for nurses and doctors should be standardised. Many SA medical schools have integrated elements of Palliative Medicine (PM) teaching into undergraduate medical training programmes for doctors; however, the degree of integration varies widely, and consensus and standardisation of the content, structure and delivery of such PM training programmes are not yet a reality. Aim: This joint position paper aims to describe the current state of undergraduate medical PM teaching in South Africa and define the PM competencies required for an SA generalist doctor. Setting: Palliative Medicine programme leads and teachers from eight medical schools in South Africa. Methods: A survey exploring the structure, organisation and content of the respective medical undergraduate PM programmes was distributed to PM programme leads and teachers. Results: Responses were received from seven medical schools. Through a process of iterative review, competencies were defined and further grouped according to suitability for the preclinical and clinical components of the curriculum. Conclusion: Through mapping out these competencies in a spiralled medical curriculum, the authors hope to provide guidance to medical curriculum designers to effectively integrate PM teaching and learning into current curricula in line with the goals of the SA National Policy Framework and Strategy on Palliative Care (NPFSPC).

Original languageEnglish
Article numbera3202
JournalAfrican Journal of Primary Health Care and Family Medicine
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2022


  • Competencies.
  • Curriculum design
  • Education
  • Health professions education
  • Learning outcome
  • Palliative care
  • Palliative medicine


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