Survey shows gaps in disaster preparedness training at U.S. medical schools

Recent surveys of physician practitioners showed a general lack of training and readiness for mass casualty events, despite a general agreement that such education should be part of the U.S. medical student curriculum.

Despite recent natural and man-made disasters, no national consensus on a disaster preparedness curriculum has been sought or developed. A recent survey conducted by researchers from Thomas Jefferson University sought input from 42 schools in 20 states. The survey concluded that only 47 percent of respondents felt they had received training in disaster preparedness in medical school, according to the American Journal of Medical Quality .

The authors of the study concluded that there is a need to improve the level of disaster preparedness training in medical schools, and that a national curriculum should be developed with aspects that promote knowledge retention.

"There have been numerous recent terrorist attacks and threats around the world, including in the United States, and the need for an effective medical response has become more evident," the authors wrote, the American Journal of Medical Quality reports. "Despite this, there is no national consensus on a disaster preparedness curriculum for physicians in training."

For many of the threats, especially those that are biological in nature, the first to identify the agents and respond will likely be primary care practitioners and emergency medical workers. Unfortunately, the survey shows a general lack of training and preparedness for mass casualty events.

The Association of American Medical Colleges has endorsed such training, but no curriculum exists and survey reports wide gaps in the level of emphasis placed on them.

"This survey demonstrates that, despite calls for more medical student disaster preparedness training, we are still failing to provide adequate undergraduate education to prepare our physicians," the authors wrote, the American Journal of Medical Quality reports. "The addition of disaster preparedness and response should be considered as a core component in the education of the modern physician."