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Medical Student Presence Does Not Slow Care in Emergency Departments, Study Finds

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Posted December 10, 2015

Medical students in Emergency Departments often perform an initial evaluation of stable patients prior to supervising residents or attending physicians, who meanwhile provide care to other patients. Despite some concern over the possible effect to patients, new research shows the presence of medical students in the Emergency Department adds less than five minutes to the average length of a patient’s stay. The findings, from a team of researchers at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania, are published in the December 8 Medical Education issue of JAMA.

“There has been concern that medical students may appreciably increase patient length of stay in the emergency department,” said the study’s senior author Kevin R. Scott, MD, assistant professor of Clinical Emergency Medicine at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania. “But our findings show only a minimal increase, one that is probably imperceptible to most patients and likely clinically insignificant. What this demonstrates is that medical students are afforded excellent educational opportunities in the Emergency Department, and can balance this with the desire of both patients and physicians to reduce length of stay.”

The all-Penn research team compared patient length of stay during a required emergency room rotation for medical students and a separate period when medical students were not in the emergency department. In total, more than 1.3 million patient cases were evaluated over a period of fifteen years at three hospitals. The investigators found the total average length of stay was 264.7 minutes, while length of stay was 4.6 minutes longer when students were involved in assessing patients.

Source: University of Pennsylvania

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