Supporting surgical residents learning clinical palliative care: Insights from multi-disciplinary focus groups

Kristen Schultz, Shannon Howard, Timothy Siegel, David Zonies, Karen Brasel, Mackenzie Cook, Kirstin Moreno

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


Background: A shortage of palliative care (PC) sub-specialists highlights the need for quality PC provided by treating surgeons, although no established curriculum exists to teach surgical residents PC skills. To guide curriculum development, we sought to determine what modifiable factors contribute to surgical residents successfully providing PC. Methods: Eight focus groups with 34 participants were conducted. Semi-structured interviews were recorded, transcribed, and de-identified. Inductive thematic analysis was utilized to encode, identify, and categorize emergent themes. Results: Barriers to resident involvement in PC included: Limited Knowledge/Inexperience, Communication Difficulties, Time Constraints, and Burnout. Factors supporting resident involvement included: Patient Relationship/Rapport, Expertise Guiding PC Discussions, and Institutional Support. Communication skills that support successful PC delivery include establishing rapport, managing conflicts, avoiding bias, and acknowledging personal/scientific limitations. Discussion: This work identifies modifiable factors that support surgical residents providing PC. Faculty and institutional support, resident education on PC principles, and expanding clinical experience with PC may be the most modifiable from a programmatic perspective. Curriculum and process development focused on these areas will help optimize surgical resident's success delivering PC.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)676-680
Number of pages5
JournalAmerican journal of surgery
Issue number2
StatePublished - Aug 2022


  • Palliative care
  • Resident education

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery


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