An understanding of disaster medicine and the health care system during mass-casualty events is vital to a successful disaster response, and has been recommended as an integral part of the medical curriculum by the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC). It has been documented that medical students do not believe that they have received adequate training for responding to disasters. The purpose of this pilot study was to determine the inclusion of disaster medicine in the required course work of medical students at AAMC schools in the United States, and to identify the content areas addressed.
An electronic on-line survey was developed based upon published core competencies for health care workers, and distributed via e-mail to the education liaison for each medical school in the United States that was accredited by the AAMC. The survey included questions regarding the inclusion of disaster medicine in the medical school curricula, the type of instruction, and the content of instruction.
Of the 29 (25.2%) medical schools that completed the survey, 31% incorporated disaster medicine into their medical school curricula. Of those schools that included disaster medicine in their curricula, 20.7% offered disaster material as required course work, and 17.2% offered it as elective course work. Disaster medicine topics provided at the highest frequency included pandemic influenza/severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS, 27.5%), and principles of triage (10.3%). The disaster health competency included most frequently was the ability to recognize a potential critical event and implement actions at eight (27.5%) of the responding schools.
Only a small percentage of US medical schools currently include disaster medicine in their core curriculum, and even fewer medical schools have incorporated or adopted competency-based training within their disaster medicine lecture topics and curricula.
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