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Future doctors unprepared to manage pain - one of the most common problems they will meet in clinical practice

10 October 2013

October 2013: There is an alarming lack of dedicated teaching on pain in undergraduate medical schools in Europe, according to the APPEAL (Advancing the Provision of Pain Education and Learning) study, the first Europe-wide study on pain education provision. Even when compulsory courses on pain are in place, they represent an average of only 12 hours within an entire six-year degree programme – or just 0.2 per cent of the teaching medical students receive during their undergraduate studies.

The APPEAL study highlights that pain teaching is not a priority in undergraduate medical curricula. The study involved 242 undergraduate medical schools in 15 European countries and found that 82 per cent of these schools have no dedicated courses on pain that are compulsory for all students.

According to APPEAL, almost two-thirds of all undergraduate medical schools (62 per cent) offer pain teaching only within other subjects – and that these subjects vary across schools. In addition, 27 per cent of medical schools that offer compulsory pain teaching, do not even document pain topics on the curriculum, making it difficult to assess where and how pain teaching is included in other subjects.

Based on the findings of the study, the APPEAL expert Taskforce calls on medical schools, pain specialists, medical students and relevant policymakers to ensure that pain education for undergraduate medical students across Europe is fit for purpose to address the current unmet public health need to adequately manage and treat pain.

The APPEAL study was funded by Mundipharma International Limited and guided by an expert Taskforce of pain and education specialists, under the leadership of The European Pain Federation, EFIC®.The APPEAL study is part of a Europe-wide initiative aimed at raising the profile and importance of pain education.

The results of APPEAL were presented on 10th October 2013 at the annual congress of the European Pain Federation, EFIC®.