A multidisciplinary summer studentship in palliative and supportive care in Oncology

Document Type



School of Nursing and Midwifery, East Africa


Purpose: the optimal context for the inter-professional education of pre-licensure health care trainees is currently unclear, especially in a field as complex and emotionally challenging as oncology. We describe the initiation of a multidisciplinary (MD) elective clinical placement in palliative and supportive Care in tertiary cancer centre designed to introduce trainees to challenges facing patients and families following a diagnosis of cancer.

Methods: an MD steering committee composed of department heads, clinical program leads, nursing and patient education and a community representative, was convened to establish studentship goals, application process, funding and a consensus approach to instruction and evaluation. On the first and last day of the studentship, trainees completes questionnaires exploring their experiences and attitudinal changes.

Results: Clinical nutrition, medicine, nursing, occupational therapy, pharmacy, physiotherapy, respiratory therapy and social work students were invited to apply. The two successful candidates (a medical student and post-graduate clinical nutrition intern) completed five studentship components: mandatory and flexible clinical time, an exploratory investigation, weekly discussion groups and a final presentation. At elective’s end, both students described a more positive view of MD practice. Both students gained an appreciation of the roles of other disciplines, practiced clinical and communication skills and improved their awareness of patient experience.

Conclusion: our six-week placement is feasible, successful, and even over a short period, students demonstrate objective perceptual changes. Trainees practice both team-process and clinical skills which will be transferable to future clinical placements and ultimately post-licensure practice.

Supported by the Alberta Cancer Research Institute and an unrestricted educational grant from Ortho-Biotech.


This work was published before the author joined Aga Khan University.

Publication (Name of Journal)

Radiotherapy & Oncology