Published online by Cambridge University Press: 15 December 2014
Over the last decades, humanitarian crises have seen a sharp upward trend. Regrettably, physicians involved in humanitarian action have often demonstrated incomplete preparation for these compelling events which have proved to be quite different from their daily work. Responders to these crises have included an unpredictable mix of beginner-level, mid-level, and expert-level providers. The quality of care has varied considerably. The international humanitarian community, in responding to international calls for improved accountability, transparency, coordination, and a registry of professionalized international responders, has recently launched a call for further professionalization within the humanitarian assistance sector, especially among academic-affiliated education and training programs. As anesthetists have been involved traditionally in medical relief operations, and recent disasters have seen a massive engagement of young physicians, the authors conducted, as a first step, a poll among residents in Anesthesia and Critical Care Medicine in Italy to evaluate their interest in participating in competency-based humanitarian assistance education and in training incorporated early in residencies.
The Directors of all the 39 accredited anesthesia/critical care training programs in Italy were contacted and asked to submit a questionnaire to their residents regarding the objectives of the poll study. After acceptance to participate, residents were enrolled and asked to complete a web-based poll.
A total of 29 (74%) of the initial training programs participated in the poll. Out of the 1,362 questionnaires mailed to residents, 924 (68%) were fully completed and returned. Only 63(6.8%) of the respondents voiced prior participation in humanitarian missions, but up to 690 (74.7%) stated they were interested in participating in future humanitarian deployments during their residency that carried over into their professional careers. Countrywide, 896 (97%) favored prior preparation for residents before participating in humanitarian missions, while the need for a specific, formal, professionalization process of the entire humanitarian aid sector was supported by 889 (96.2%).
In Italy, the majority of anesthesia/critical care residents, through a formal poll study, affirmed interest in participating in humanitarian assistance missions and believe that further professionalization within the humanitarian aid sector is required. These results have implications for residency training programs worldwide.
Conflict of interest: The authors declare that this research was conducted in the absence of any commercial or financial relationships that could be construed as a potential conflict of interest.