Medical students have been deployed in victim care of several disasters throughout history. They are corner stones in first-line care in recent pandemic planning. Furthermore, every physician and senior medical student is expected to assist in case of disaster situations, but are they educated to do so? Being one of Europe’s densest populated countries with multiple nuclear installations, a large petrochemical industry and also at risk for terrorist attacks, The Netherlands bear some risks for incidents. We evaluated the knowledge on Disaster Medicine in the Dutch medical curriculum. Our hypothesis is that Dutch senior medical students are not prepared at all.
Senior Dutch medical students were invited through their faculty to complete an online survey on Disaster Medicine, training and knowledge. This reported knowledge was tested by a mixed set of 10 theoretical and practical questions.
With a mean age of 25.5 years and 60 % females, 999 participants completed the survey. Of the participants, 51 % considered that Disaster Medicine should absolutely be taught in the regular medical curriculum and only 2 % felt it as useless; 13 % stated to have some knowledge on disaster medicine. Self-estimated capability to deal with various disaster situations varied from 1.47/10 in nuclear incidents to 3.92/10 in influenza pandemics. Self-estimated knowledge on these incidents is in the same line (1.71/10 for nuclear incidents and 4.27/10 in pandemics). Despite this limited knowledge and confidence, there is a high willingness to respond (ranging from 4.31/10 in Ebola outbreak over 5.21/10 in nuclear incidents to 7.54/10 in pandemics). The case/theoretical mix gave a mean score of 3.71/10 and raised some food for thought. Although a positive attitude, 48 % will place contaminated walking wounded in a waiting room and 53 % would use iodine tablets as first step in nuclear decontamination. Of the participants, 52 % even believes that these tablets protect against external radiation, 41 % thinks that these tablets limit radiation effects more than shielding and 57 % believes that decontamination of chemical victims consists of a specific antidote spray in military cabins.
Despite a high willingness to respond, our students are not educated for disaster situations.