Background: The objective of pain medicine education is to provide medical students with opportunities to develop their knowledge, skills and professional attitudes that will lead to their becoming safe, capable, and compassionate medical practitioners who are able to meet the healthcare needs of persons in pain. This study was undertaken to identify and describe the delivery of pain medicine education at medical schools in Australia and New Zealand.

Method: All 23 medical schools in Australia and New Zealand in 2016 were included in this study. A structured curriculum audit tool was used to obtain information on pain medicine curricula including content, delivery, teaching and assessment methods.

Results: Nineteen medical schools (83%) completed the curriculum audit. Neurophysiology, clinical assessment, analgesia use and multidimensional aspects of pain medicine were covered by most medical schools. Specific learning objectives for pain medicine were not identified by 42% of medical schools. One medical school offered a dedicated pain medicine module delivered over 1 week. Pain medicine teaching was delivered at all schools by a number of different departments throughout the curriculum. Interprofessional learning (IPL) in the context of pain medicine education was not specified by any of the medical schools. The mean time allocated for pain medicine teaching over the entire medical course was just under 20 h. The objective structured clinical examination (OSCE) was used by 32% of schools to assess knowledge and skills in pain medicine. 16% of schools were unsure of whether any assessment of pain medicine education took place.

Conclusion: This descriptive study provides important baseline information for pain medicine education at medical schools in Australia and New Zealand. Medical schools do not have well-documented or comprehensive pain curricula that are delivered and assessed using pedagogically-sound approaches considering the complexity of the topic, the prevalence and public health burden of pain.


pain medicine, education, curricula, medical student

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