Preparing for the Next Pandemic Flu: The Role of the Medical Student — A View from Within

1University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Ml
2University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Ml
3University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Ml
4University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Ml
5University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Ml
6University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Ml
7University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Ml

Meeting: Hospital Medicine 2010, April 8-11, Washington, D.C.

Abstract number: 22

Background:

The rising incidence of patients seeking hospital services with flulike illness and related complications has every health care system preparing for busy flu seasons. Based on lessons from previous pandemic flu events, there are concerns about shortages in supplies and health care staff. Hospitalists are likely to be called on to provide and lead the inpatient care response to the surge in hospitalized patients with the flu. With expected staff absenteeism as high as 40%, many hospitals have begun planning for staff allocation. However medical students have traditionally been excluded from staffing plans. We surveyed all medical students at our medical school to find out their views on how they might want to contribute to the pandemic flu response.

Methods:

We sent a voluntary survey to all currently enrolled students at our medical school. The survey questions were intended to assess the students' feelings on their role in the event our hospital encountered a surge in patients with influenza. The survey questions were developed by 2 fourth‐year medical students and were reviewed by 2 faculty mentors. We utilized a commercial Web‐based survey tool to collect and analyze our data. Survey participation was completely voluntary, and the students were not offered any financial or academic incentives to fill out the survey.

Results:

At the time of the survey. 743 students were enrolled at our medical school, and 375 students completed the survey (50.5%). There was an overwhelming positive interest in being part of the pandemic flu staffing plan, where 87% of the students believed they should be included as part of the response plan. When asked if they would volunteer to assume patient care duties, 86% of the students stated “yes.” Given that medical students are currently not counted as available staff for patient care during a pandemic, students were asked if they would place their names on a voluntary registry to assist in patient care duties, and 85% of the students expressed an interested in being part of the registry. Their comfort level with the types of patient care duties varied by their level of education and coincided with the skills they had learned up to that point. Forty‐six students (12.3%) answered that they would not volunteer to assume clinical dulies for patients with the H1N1 flu. Common reasons for not volunteering included fear of exposure and lack of confidence in their clinical skills (predominantly by pre‐clinical‐year students).

Conclusions:

The medical students at our medical school strongly believed they should be part of the staffing response plan in the event of an influenza pandemic and would volunteer in a variety of capacities to care for hospitalized flu patients. Hospitalists in academic medical centers with medical schools and other allied health professional schools should survey their own setting and consider including students in training to help provide patient care during critical times of need.

Author Disclosure:

A. Berhane, none; L. Orton, none; G. Waight, none; J. Billi, none; S. Cinti, none; J. Fantone, none; C. Klm, Pfizer, member of Advisory Panel.

To cite this abstract:

Berhane A, Orton L, Waight G, Billi J, Cinti S, Fantone J, Kim C. Preparing for the Next Pandemic Flu: The Role of the Medical Student — A View from Within. Abstract published at Hospital Medicine 2010, April 8-11, Washington, D.C. Abstract 22. Journal of Hospital Medicine. 2010; 5 (suppl 1). https://www.shmabstracts.com/abstract/preparing-for-the-next-pandemic-flu-the-role-of-the-medical-student-a-view-from-within/. Accessed July 22, 2019.

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