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Benefits of a learner-centred abortion curriculum for family medicine residents
  1. Melissa Nothnagle, MD, Assistant Professor of Family Medicine
  1. Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University/Memorial Hospital of Rhode Island, Pawtucket, RI, USA
  1. Correspondence to Dr Melissa Nothnagle, Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University/Memorial Hospital of Rhode Island, 111 Brewster Street, Pawtucket, RI 02860, USA. E-mail: Melissa_Nothnagle{at}


Background and methodology Despite the high prevalence of unplanned pregnancy and abortion in the USA, abortion education in medical schools and residencies is extremely limited. Regardless of their personal views, family physicians will care for many women who have abortions. This article describes the implementation and evaluation of a learner-centred abortion curriculum in a family medicine residency. Residents were surveyed at baseline to assess openness to abortion education. An abortion curriculum was developed and implemented as a routine component of training. Three to four half-day training sessions were tailored to individual residents, with varying levels of participation in providing abortion depending on learners' personal beliefs. Residents completed written surveys before and after participation in the curriculum.

Results The pre-implementation survey had a 90% response rate and showed that routine participation in an abortion curriculum was acceptable to 69% of respondents. The curriculum was implemented and evaluated from 2003 to 2006. All 39 residents participated and 28 (72%) completed both pre- and post-rotation surveys. Comparisons between pre- and post-rotation surveys demonstrated statistically significant improvements in abortion-related knowledge and self-reported comfort with abortion-related skills and significantly more favourable attitudes about abortion training.

Discussion and conclusions Residents were better prepared to care for women with unwanted pregnancies after routine participation in an abortion curriculum. For controversial topics such as abortion, a learner-centred curriculum ensures adequate education for all residents. Future research should assess how routine abortion education affects patient care and whether it results in an increased number of family physicians who provide abortion.

  • abortion
  • education
  • family medicine

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