This year, Royal Trinity Hospice has welcomed 6 newly-qualified doctors (FY1s) to work in the inpatient unit, supporting patients, and their friends and families, as they reach the end of their life. The opportunity enables trainee doctors to develop the crucial communication skills around difficult conversations which will inevitably be required throughout their career. Offering palliative care training to FY1 doctors is relatively unusual, with most hospices offering training only to doctors specializing in the discipline.

Kate Perry, one of the FY1 doctors currently placed at Trinity, said, “Before I came here, I had only seen difficult conversations being held a handful of times, always by more senior doctors. They were mostly shied away from. But here, I get the opportunity to talk about things like advanced care planning every day. Initially, I was awkward and didn’t know how to approach it, but here I have seen that it’s easier for patients if you are direct, open and honest.

There is often a perception that we have failed as doctors if we don’t keep people alive, but it’s not always possible and managing death is part of our role. I think if more doctors had experiences like this, they would be better equipped to deal with death and be better doctors as a result. I would 100% recommend this placement for other newly qualified doctors.”

Many doctors complete their training with little to no experience of how to speak with terminally ill patients and their families, leaving them ill-equipped to deal with the issues around death and dying. This gap is one of the reasons why advanced care planning is so rare– only 5% of people in the UK have considered how and where they would like to be cared for at the end of their lives, which can lead to unnecessary treatment and avoidable deaths in hospital. Earlier in the month, results from the national audit of dying patients were released highlighting a failure by authorities to tell relatives of plans put in place for their loved ones.

Training placements for FY1s are just one of the ways Trinity shares its skills with other healthcare professionals. Trinity also offers training placements to GP trainees. You can read  GP trainee Dr Abhijit Gill's story here