Purpose Students often act as subjects during practical and clinical skills training sessions. This routine seems to be quite acceptable for them but may present side-effects. Disorders, sometimes of a serious nature, have been discovered in medical students during clinical skills training. Because the incidence of and sequels to medical problems discovered in medical students during study-related activities are unknown, we carried out an explorative study.
Methods An anonymous questionnaire was administered to 1132 students (85%) in our medical school.
Results A total of 740 students (65% response rate) returned the questionnaire. Of them 124 (16·8% of respondents) reported 139 incidents. The estimated incidence was 1·5% per year. In 63 cases (45%) the diagnosis of a consulted doctor was known. Pathology (e.g. a ventricular septal defect) was revealed in 30 students (21%), a normal physiological variation (e.g. a functional cardiac murmur) in 22 (16%) and no abnormality was found in 11 (8%). Most of the incidents (65%) occurred during clinical skills training. The incidents were experienced negatively by 35% of the students.
Conclusion Based on these findings, we estimate the incidence of medical problems discovered in medical students during study-related activities to be 1·5%. This and the moral and legal implications emphasise that every medical school should realise the possibility of consequences. In our opinion, this realisation should result, minimally, in the development of a protocol for students and faculty that outlines procedures for handling such incidents. Information should also be provided explaining these possible side-effects of medical education.