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Postgraduate palliative care education for all healthcare providers in Europe: Results from an EAPC survey

  • Piret Paal (a1), Cornelia Brandstötter (a1), Stefan Lorenzl (a2) (a3), Philip Larkin (a2) (a4) and Frank Elsner (a5)...

Palliative care training at basic, intermediate, and specialist levels, recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO), is challenging to access in resource-poor countries and regions. Providing support in this regard would seem a moral imperative for all countries with established palliative care education systems and a strong resource base. In collaboration with WHO European Office and European Association for Palliative Care, this paper looks into the educational requirements in palliative care at postgraduate level within Europe.


A survey was specifically designed to gather opinions and comments on elements of palliative care education from European experts. Participants were invited to assess the European Association for Palliative Care core competencies on a five-item scale and to define essential learning goals. Survey data were statistically analyzed using IBM SPSS Statistics Software. Qualitative data were thematically analyzed.


A total of 195 data sets were recorded; 82 were completed fully. The statistical analysis revealed a high agreement regarding the key elements of palliative care education. The thematic analysis indicated that at postgraduate level all healthcare providers need to (1) comprehend the palliative care philosophy, (2) be able to demonstrate the complex symptom assessment and management competencies, (3) be able to design care plans based on patients and families wishes integrating multiprofessional and interdisciplinary approaches, and (4) be able to listen and self-reflect.

Significance of results

According to the WHO, inadequate skills and capacities of healthcare workers are one of the four barriers hindering the access to palliative care. This paper contains a new and comprehensive list of learning goals essential for multidisciplinary postgraduate palliative care education. Besides highlighting the relevant competencies, the article provides best-practice toolboxes with teaching and assessment methods. The article comments on the WHO's palliative care definition and underpins the importance of the role of the education in knowledge development and skills acquisition.

Corresponding author
Author for correspondence: Dr. Piret Paal, WHO Collaborating Centre for Nursing Research and Education, Paracelsus Medical Private University, Strubergasse 21, Salzburg A-5020, Austria. E-mail:
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Palliative & Supportive Care
  • ISSN: 1478-9515
  • EISSN: 1478-9523
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