Medical students are expected to make residency and career decisions early in their undergraduate medical education. In medical school curricula, there is limited exposure to emergency medicine (EM) in the preclerkship years. The purpose of this study was to evaluate a structured EM observership program for preclerks by surveying the students’ perceptions and attitudes about the program following their participation.
A structured observership program was developed and implemented at the University of Toronto Medical School in February 2007. All first- and second-year students were eligible to participate on a voluntary basis. Nine emergency department (ED) teaching sites were enlisted, with each site recruiting interested preceptors. The observership consisted of two 4-hour shifts with 1 preceptor at 1 site. Specific expectations were provided to the students at the start of the observership. A convenience sample was used for the period between Feb. 26 and Nov. 4, 2007, to conduct an anonymous online survey about the students' experience after the ob servership.
During the study period, 82 students completed 99 observerships at 9 sites with 54 different preceptors. Of the 82 students who completed the observerships, 70 students completed the survey. Overall, all the students (70/70) found the experience to be worthwhile. Most students (68/70) viewed the preceptors as good role models. As a result of the observership, 47 of 70 students reported that their attitudes about and interest in EM had changed and most (59/70) planned on exploring other opportunities in EM (e.g., electives).
Structured EM observerships are viewed by medical students to be worthwhile. These observerships can change attitudes about and interest in EM and allow students to make more informed career choices.
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