The presence of medical students in a hospital's emergency department does not significantly slow the pace of operations, according to a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.
Researchers, led by Kevin R. Scott, M.D., an assistant professor of clinical medicine at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania, found that the presence of student physicians added some time to patients' visits to the emergency department. However, the amount of time was small enough to be statistically negligible, particularly when weighed against the benefits of hands-on training.
The study analyzed 15 years of emergency department data from three urban teaching hospitals, data encompassing some 1.3 million patient visits. The study found an average length of stay was 264.7 minutes. When researchers compared times when medical students were working in the emergency department to times when they were not, they found that the average patient visit was only four minutes longer when students were present.
"There has been concern that medical students may appreciably increase patient length of stay in the emergency department," said Scott in an announcement. "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."
Integrating medical students and residents into patient care has been shown to be safe for patients, as well. Even when residents work long, strenuous 30-hour shifts, patient mortality rates remain the same and the standard of care across the board does not decline.