International Psychogeriatrics

Review Article

What should we be teaching medical students about dementia?

Ellen Tulloa1 c1 and Louise Allana1

a1 Institute of Ageing and Health, Campus for Ageing and Vitality, Newcastle University, Newcastle upon Tyne, UK


Background: Doctors working in the majority of medical subspecialties provide care for patients with dementia, but there is current international concern that many do not have adequate knowledge or skills to deliver appropriate care for these patients in hospital or community settings. The aim of this review is to draw together recommendations for medical education on dementia and empirical research on teaching interventions concerning dementia in order to assess the current provision of training using the UK model as an example.

Methods: Database and manual searches were undertaken to identify relevant articles for a narrative review.

Results: UK national guidelines recommend that dementia-specific education should be available to trainees in the undergraduate and postgraduate environment. A sample of undergraduate curricula shows considerable variation in the delivery of teaching about dementia. “Non-specialist” postgraduate curricula make reference to care of patients with confusion, but do not always include learning outcomes specific to cognitive impairment or dementia. Teaching interventions trialed in the postgraduate environment provide encouraging qualitative feedback from participants, but do not consistently demonstrate improvement in participants' knowledge, skills or attitudes.

Conclusions: There is a pressing need to improve undergraduate medical education on dementia in order to help future doctors obtain the ability to provide competent care for patients. There is scope for ongoing research to refine existing curricula covering dementia and to build an evidence-base for successful dementia-specific teaching interventions.

(Received October 06 2010)

(Revised December 10 2010)

(Revised February 25 2011)

(Accepted February 28 2011)

(Online publication April 04 2011)

Key words:


c1 Correspondence should be addressed to: Ellen Tullo, Academic Clinical Fellow in Geriatric Medicine, Institute of Ageing and Health, Campus for Ageing and Vitality, Newcastle University, NE4 5PL, UK. Phone: +44 191 2481300. Email: