Open Access Highly Accessed Open Badges Research article

Health care professionals’ perceptions towards lifelong learning in palliative care for general practitioners: a focus group study

Peter Pype1*, Linda Symons2, Johan Wens2, Bart Van den Eynden2, Ann Stes3 and Myriam Deveugele1

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Family Medicine and Primary Health Care, Ghent University, UZ-6 K3, De Pintelaan 185, 9000 Gent, Belgium

2 Department of Primary and Interdisciplinary Care Antwerp - PICA, University of Antwerp, Antwerp, Belgium

3 Institute for Education and Information Sciences, University of Antwerp, Antwerp, Belgium

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BMC Family Practice 2014, 15:36  doi:10.1186/1471-2296-15-36

Published: 19 February 2014



There is a growing need for palliative care. The majority of palliative patients prefer their general practitioner (GP) to organize their palliative home care. General practitioners need a range of competences to perform this task. However, there has been no general description so far of how GPs keep these competences up-to-date. The present study explores current experiences, views and preferences towards training and education in palliative care among GPs, palliative home-care professionals and professionals from organizations who provide training and education.


Five focus groups were brought together in Belgium, with a total of 29 participants, including members of the three categories mentioned above. They were analysed using a constant comparison method.


The analysis revealed that undergraduate education and continuing medical education (CME) while in practice, is insufficient to prepare GPs for their palliative work. Workplace learning (WPL) through collaboration with specialized palliative home-care nurses seems to be a valuable alternative.


The effectiveness of undergraduate education might be enhanced by adding practical experience. Providers of continuing medical education should look to organize interactive, practice-based and interprofessional sessions. Therefore, teachers need to be trained to run small group discussions. In order to optimize workplace learning, health care professionals should be trained to monitor each other’s practice and to provide effective feedback. Further research is needed to clarify which aspects of interprofessional teamwork (e.g. professional hierarchy, agreements on tasks and responsibilities) influence the effectiveness of workplace learning.

Interprofessional learning; Workplace learning; Interprofessional collaboration; Primary care; Continuing professional development