Incidence of and sequels to medical problems discovered in medical students during study-related activities

Authors


Jan Pols MD, PhD, Institute for Medical Education, Department for Educational Development and Quality Assurance, Faculty of Medical Sciences, University of Groningen, Ant. Deusinglaan 1, 9713 AV Groningen, the Netherlands. Tel.: 00 31 50 363 76 29; Fax: 00 31 50 363 3865; E-mail: j.pols@med.rug.nl

Abstract

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.

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