Background: Hospitals are viewed as a haven of safety within a community in the aftermath of a natural or man-made disaster. Thus, the importance of disaster training for hospital personnel is paramount. Regardless of specialty, all physicians will be called upon to serve. Yet, disaster training is not routinely incorporated into the curriculum of undergraduate medical education. The development and implementation of a disaster management course for medical students should therefore be a priority.
Description: The objectives of this study were to develop an introductory disaster curriculum for medical students, to measure its effectiveness by assessing students' mastery of knowledge and their ability to analyze a historic disaster, and to measure student course satisfaction by standard assessment methods. Based on medical students' evaluation of a 2-day disaster training seminar held in the preceding year, as well as an investigation of existing disaster courses, we identified core objectives that medical students should achieve at the end of a 2-week disaster elective. The elective consisted of 16 lectures, as well as field visits and experiential activities, including observation of a statewide disaster drill. Participants were six 4th-year medical students from the David Geffen School of Medicine at University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA). Although didactics were held at UCLA, participants traveled to various locations for the experiential aspects: the Los Angeles County Emergency Operations Center; the Medical Alert Center at the Los Angeles County Emergency Medical Services Agency; the Disaster Staging Warehouse that stockpiles medical, surgical, and pharmaceutical supplies; a community fire department; the University of Southern California School Institute of Creative Technologies Tour; and the Harbor-UCLA Medical Center, where students observed the annual statewide disaster drill. Student evaluations were based on daily participation, an oral examination, and a lecture presentation. Upon completion of the elective, students provided summative feedback about the course on a Likert scale. Observations included oral examination scores of student knowledge base, evaluations of students' final presentations, and students' course and lecture evaluations.
Evaluation: All six students proficiently answered oral examination questions and achieved a superior grade for their final lecture presentations. All faculty lecturers, as well as the overall course evaluation, received a maximum score of five on the standard Likert scale.
Conclusions: A comprehensive 2-week medical student disaster elective, based upon an introductory disaster seminar, was evaluated highly by student participants.