Can Medical Students Lead Effective Quality Improvement Initiatives? A Systematic Review

Am J Med Qual. Mar/Apr 2019;34(2):189-199. doi: 10.1177/1062860618791305. Epub 2018 Aug 6.


Quality improvement project (QUIP) concepts are becoming embedded into medical school curricula, with many students now expected to conduct a QUIP as part of their progression. This study aimed to assess whether student-led QUIPs can be effective and sustainable. A systematic literature search was conducted using 5 databases: MEDLINE, Embase, Ovid, CINAHL, and PsycINFO. The authors searched for articles published between January 28, 1978, and January 28, 2018. In all, 3965 articles were identified through database searching, and an additional 9 articles through hand searches. After screening and full-text analysis, 12 articles were included. Greater than 50% of QUIPs described a statistically significant improvement in the primary outcome. However, effective student-led QUIPs were not necessarily sustainable, with a mean final audit at 4.4 months. Medical students have the potential to produce effective QUIPs. There now needs to be a structured approach to give medical students the freedom to test and validate more unique interventions.

Keywords: medical student; quality improvement; student; sustainability.

Publication types

  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Education, Medical / methods
  • Humans
  • Program Evaluation
  • Quality Improvement* / organization & administration
  • Students, Medical*