With increasing numbers of students and falling numbers of individuals receiving electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) it has been difficult to timetable all students to witness ECT, and it has been suggested that this experience may be dispensed with. However, we wondered how the experience of witnessing ECT might enhance students' knowledge and, just as importantly, challenge negative perceptions of ECT. We surveyed students' attitudes and knowledge at the beginning and the end of their 8-week attachment in psychiatry.
There appears to be a clear benefit in terms of knowledge and positive attitudinal change for students who both witness ECT and receive a lecture on the subject.
Direct observation of ECT can challenge and affect attitudes in ways a lecture may not. Any changes to the provision of ECT teaching for medical students, including replacing witnessing ECT, needs to be carefully developed and assessed.
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