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Future doctors and nurses need more training in disaster medicine

By using a web-based questionnaire distributed to 500 medical and 408 nursing students from nine Swedish higher education institutions, a team of researchers led by University of Gothenburg has surveyed the extent of education and training in disaster medicine Swedish students receive. 

The investigation revealed that, although most students of medicine and nursing considered their knowledge of disaster medicine inadequate, students with experience from the rescue forces, police, and armed forces were at an advantage.

The experts asked students to state to what extent they regarded themselves well informed about several issues related to disaster medicine, such as organization, law, ethics, prioritization of patients, hospital evacuation, and decontamination after radioactive or chemical exposure. 

Respondents with prior experience from the rescue services, police, and/or military service (eight percent of the medical students and 20 percent of the nursing students) had a higher self-rated level of knowledge. Moreover, for medical students close to completing their studies, there was a robust association between their self-reported level of knowledge and the extent of their disaster medicine courses. 

According to the scientists, these findings suggest that 40 hours studying disaster medicine – which is more than the students currently get – should be adequate to properly prepare future doctors and nurses to perform efficiently in such emergencies. The results support the most recent recommendations of the National Board of Health and Welfare encouraging universities to include five days of disaster medicine education in medical and nursing undergraduate programs.

“The results show that both teaching and conscription had a favorable effect on the students’ self-rated knowledge of disaster medicine. Students who received more extensive instruction and those who had been in military service rated themselves as more knowledgeable,” said study lead author Yohan Robinson, an associate professor of Disaster Medicine at Gothenburg and the director of the Department for Total Defense at the Swedish Armed Forces Center for Defense Medicine in Gothenburg.

“The results may provide insights into how to improve education and training for medical and nursing students to enable them to cope with and face crisis situations better, thus helping to make disaster preparedness more robust and effective,” he concluded.

The study is published in the journal Frontiers in Public Health.

By Andrei Ionescu, Staff Writer

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