Crosscultural narratives on death and bereavement among medical students: implications for undergraduate curricula

Arokiamary Bharathy1, Margarita Malayapillay2 and Vincent Russell1

1Department of Psychiatry, Penang Medical College, Malaysia

2Penang Association of Counselling and Psychology, Malaysia

Submitted: 22/08/2012; Accepted: 30/03/2013; Published: 05/04/2013

Int J Med Educ. 2013; 4:68-74; doi: 10.5116/ijme.5156.c4f4

© 2013 Arokiamary Bharathy et al. This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits unrestricted use of work provided the original work is properly cited. http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0

Objectives: The aims of this study were to explore how Asian medical students from different cultural backgrounds engaged with issues of death and bereavement in an interactive group setting and to report their subjective experience of participation in the group.

Methods: A convenience sample of thirteen, fourth year students at Penang Medical College participated in an audio-recorded focus group. Thematic analysis was performed on their personal narratives on death and bereavement.

Results: The dominant themes that emerged were openness with regard to students' narratives, strong identification with traditional beliefs and rituals, the influence of professional identity and recognition of commonality of bereavement experience. There was some discomfort arising from the group process but this was mitigated by the level of support within the group.

Conclusions: The implications of our findings for undergraduate medical curricula are that interactive, small group teaching of this important but culturally sensitive topic would be well tolerated and acceptable in an Asian medical school setting. However, the group process must be carefully structured and facilitated.