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The medical student as a patient: attitudes towards involvement in the quality and safety of health care


Dr Rachel Davis, Clinical Safety Research Unit, Imperial College London, Department of Bio-Surgery and Surgical Technology, 10th Floor, QEQM, St Mary's Hospital, South Wharf Road, London, W2 1NY, UK, E-mail:


Background  In recent years, factors that affect patients' willingness and ability to participate in safety-relevant behaviours have been investigated. However, how trained healthcare professionals or medical students would feel participating in safety-relevant behaviours as a patient in hospital remains largely unexplored.

Objectives  To investigate medical students' willingness to participate in behaviours related to the quality and safety of their health care.

Design  A cross-sectional exploratory study using a survey that addressed willingness to participate in different behaviours recommended by current patient safety initiatives. Three types of interactional behaviours (asking factual or challenging questions, notifying doctors or nurses of errors/problems) and three non-interactional behaviours (choosing a hospital based on the safety record, bringing medicines and a list of allergies into hospital, and reporting an error to a national reporting system) were assessed.

Participants  One hundred and seventy-nine medical students from an inner city London teaching hospital participated in the study.

Findings  Students' willingness to participate was affected (P < 0.05) by the action required by the patient and (for interactional behaviours) whether the patient was engaging in the specific action with a doctor or nurse. Students were least willing to ask ‘challenging’ questions to doctors and nurses and to report errors to a national reporting system. Doctors' and nurses' encouragement appeared to increase self-reported willingness to participate in behaviours where baseline willingness was low.

Conclusion  Similar to research on lay patient populations; medical students do not view involvement in safety-related behaviours equally. Interventions should be tailored at encouraging students to participate in behaviours they are less inclined to take on an active role in. Future research is required to examine students' motivations for participation in this important but heavily under-researched area.