Facilitators and Barriers to Recruiting Surgeons into Hospice and Palliative Medicine Training



      Few individuals have fellowship training in both hospice and palliative medicine (HPM) and a surgical specialty including general surgery, general obstetrics and gynecology, or affiliated subspecialties. There is a paucity of data to explain why some surgeons choose to pursue HPM fellowship training.


      Identify facilitators and barriers to palliative medicine fellowship training among physicians from a surgical specialty.


      We conducted individual semi-structured interviews with 17 surgeons who were also fellowship-trained in HPM. Interviews were recorded, transcribed, and thematic analysis was conducted to identify themes.


      Participants reported pivotal experiences—either positive exposure to palliative care or suboptimal surgical care experiences—as a key motivator for pursuing specialty palliative care training. Additionally, participants chose HPM training because they felt that practicing from a HPM perspective aligned with their personal care philosophy, and in some cases, offered professional opportunities to help achieve career goals. Participants reported encountering bias from both HPM and surgical faculty, and also found that some HPM fellowship programs did not accept surgical trainees. Surgeons also reported logistical concerns related to coordinating a one-year fellowship as a barrier to formal HPM training.


      Understanding the motivations of surgeons who pursue HPM training and identifying challenges to completing fellowship may inform solutions to expand surgeon representation in palliative care. Both HPM and surgical faculty should be educated on the benefits of specialty HPM training for surgical trainees and practicing surgeons. Further research should explore HPM fellowship best practices for welcoming and training surgeons and other underrepresented specialties.


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