Brief educational intervention to improve medical student competence in managing patients exposed to secondhand smoke

Subst Abus. 2014;35(2):163-7. doi: 10.1080/08897077.2013.821438.


Background: Secondhand smoke (SHS) exposure may lead to the development of various diseases and conditions. One way to reduce SHS exposure is to screen for it within each primary care examination so that appropriate counseling can be directed to affected individuals. There has been little attention to improving medical education about SHS exposure and screening. The goal of this study was to develop an SHS-related educational intervention for medical students, with the purpose of improving knowledge regarding consequences of SHS exposure, and increasing intent to screen patients for exposure.

Methods: Medical students (N = 405) were given a measure assessing their knowledge of SHS exposure and intent to screen. Two groups of students served as controls (i.e., a posttest-only group and a pre/posttest group), and one group participated in the SHS education intervention. A factorial analysis with repeated measures and chi-square analyses were used to assess the differences between the groups to determine the impact of the SHS education intervention (ie, online lectures and a standardized patient interaction) on knowledge and intent to screen.

Results: Results of pretesting demonstrated that medical students had little knowledge of SHS exposure, averaging scores between 63% and 69% on the examination. One control group was reassessed a year later with no educational intervention. They did not demonstrate a significant change in their pre- to posttest scores, although the vast majority (∼95%) reported intending to screen future patients. Students who participated in the SHS educational intervention significantly improved their scores from pre- to posttest (P <.001), and 100% also reported intending to screen future patients.

Conclusions: This study suggests that brief education regarding the consequences of SHS exposure may improve medical students' knowledge and increase intent to screen. Future research should assess the long-term impact of educational programs on improved clinical care.

Keywords: Education, medical students, secondhand smoke, screening, tobacco.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Clinical Competence*
  • Education, Medical, Undergraduate*
  • Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice*
  • Humans
  • Students, Medical / psychology*
  • Tobacco Smoke Pollution*


  • Tobacco Smoke Pollution