In a startling new survey, medical students in the UK confess that they have not been properly trained to carry out basic tasks such as inserting an intravenous drip, taking blood samples or suturing a wound.
The survey asked 122 students taking their final examinations at Sheffield University, and 84 graduates from the same school, about the training they had received in eight core clinical skills: insertion of an iv cannula, venous and arterial blood sampling, insertion of a nasogastric tube, suturing a wound, rectal examination, bladder catheterisation and performing an electrocardiogram. Questions were also asked about training in the prevention and handling of needlestick injuries.
The results showed that nearly a third of the final-year students had never had a chance to practice passing a urinary catheter, and more than half had “negligible” experience in performing an ECG. None of the hospitals in which they worked offered formal needlestick training, and 63 per cent of house officers said they had never had this training even as undergraduates.
Most house officers did not receive further practical training after qualification, and their responses to the survey showed that they were regularly being expected to practice these eight core skills ‘despite inadequate training, and with no supervision to ensure correct technique’.
The researchers say there is no reason to believe that Sheffield University is any worse than other medical schools in the UK (J R Soc Med, 2001; 94: 516-20).