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BACKGROUND:Palliative and end-of-life care is a core competency for doctors and is increasingly recognised as a key clinical skill for junior doctors. There is a growing international movement to embed palliative care education in medical student and junior doctor education. To date there has been no review of the literature concerning the views and experiences of junior doctors delivering this care. AIM:To review the published literature between 2000 and 2019 concerning junior doctors' experience of palliative and end-of-life care. METHODS:Systematic literature review and narrative synthesis. RESULTS:A search of six databases identified 7191 titles; 34 papers met the inclusion criteria, with a further 5 identified from reference searching. Data were extracted into a review-specific extraction sheet and a narrative synthesis undertaken. Three key themes were identified: (1) 'Significance of death and dying': all papers found that junior doctors care for many patients approaching the end of life, and this often causes emotional distress and can leave persisting memories for many years afterwards; (2) 'Thrown in at the deep end': junior doctors feel unprepared and unsupported in providing palliative and end-of-life care; and (3) 'Addressing the gaps': junior doctors often experience a medical culture of disengagement towards dying patients and varying attitudes of senior doctors. Subsequently they have to learn the skills needed through seeking their own opportunities. CONCLUSION:Medical education needs to change in order to better prepare and support junior doctors for their role in caring for dying patients. This education needs to focus on their knowledge, skills and attitudes.

Original publication




Journal article


BMJ supportive & palliative care

Publication Date



Primary Care Unit, University of Cambridge, Cambridge, UK