Previous studies have indicated that Australian medical schools have not adequately prepared our graduating doctors to care for patients with cancer. The University of Western Australia (UWA) introduced a two-week clinical attachment in cancer medicine for fifth-year students in 2000 and a four-day clinical attachment in palliative care for sixth-year students in 2001. This article evaluates the introduction of these dedicated clinical attachments in cancer and palliative care.
The Australian Cancer Society’s Cancer Education Survey was administered to the UWA graduates starting their intern year in teaching hospitals in Perth, Western Australia, in 2002. Their responses were compared with data collected in a similar national survey of Australian and New Zealand interns in 2001.The response rate was 56% (n = 70). When compared with the national data for 2001, more UWA interns (2002) would refer a newly diagnosed breast cancer patient to a multidisciplinary breast clinic (97% vs. 74%, P < .001). Fewer UWA 2002 interns rated their training as 'poor or very poor' in the management of patients with incurable cancer (19% vs. 35%, P = .008) and the management of symptoms in patients dying from cancer (10% vs. 37%, P < .001), but they were more likely to rate their training in assisting a patient to stop smoking as 'poor or very poor' (54% vs. 21%, P < .001).Only a quarter of the UWA 2002 interns had examined a patient with a cancer of the mouth or tongue (25% vs. 49%, P < .001), and only two thirds had examined a patient with lymphoma (64% vs. 83%, P < .001).Data reflects changes in the final two years of the medical course at UWA and suggest that the introduction of dedicated attachments in cancer and palliative care has better prepared graduating doctors to care for patients with cancer.(Source: J Cancer Educ. 2004; 19:156-160: Darren Starmer, BN, Konrad Jamrozik, Mbbs, Dphil, Michael Barton, MBBS, Franzcr, Sharon Miles, BAPPSC: November 2004.)