Disaster 101: a novel approach to disaster medicine training for health professionals

J Emerg Med. 2010 Aug;39(2):220-6. doi: 10.1016/j.jemermed.2009.08.064. Epub 2010 Jan 15.


Background: Despite efforts to improve preparedness training for health professionals, disaster medicine remains a peripheral component of traditional medical education in the United States (US) and is a rarely studied topic in the medical literature.

Objectives: Using a pre-/post-test design, we measured the extent to which 4(th)-year medical students perceive, rapidly learn, and apply basic concepts of disaster medicine via a novel curriculum.

Methods: Via a modified Delphi technique, an expert curriculum panel developed a 90-min didactic training scenario and two 40-min training exercises for medical students: a hazardous material scene and a surprise mass casualty incident (MCI) scenario with 100 life-sized mannequins. Medical students were quizzed before and after the didactic training scenario about their perceptions and their disaster medicine knowledge.

Results: Students rated their overall knowledge as 3.76/10 pretest compared to 7.64/10 after the didactic program. Students' post-test scores improved by 54% and students participating in the MCI drill correctly tagged 94% of the victims in approximately 10 min. The average overall rating for the experience was 4.85/5.

Conclusions: The results of this educational demonstration project reveal that students will value and can rapidly learn some core elements of disaster medicine via a novel addition to a medical school's curriculum. We believe the principle of a highly effective and well-received medical student course that can be easily added to a university curriculum has been demonstrated. Further research is needed to validate core competencies and performance-based education goals for US health professional trainees.

MeSH terms

  • Curriculum
  • Disaster Medicine / education*
  • Education, Medical, Undergraduate / methods*
  • Humans
  • Manikins
  • Mass Casualty Incidents*