174356 Medical students' duty to care during an influenza pandemic

Monday, October 27, 2008

Julie Aultman, PhD , Behavioral Sciences, Northeastern Ohio Universities College of Medicine, Rootstown, OH
From an ethical perspective, all healthcare workers have a moral duty to treat and care for patients in the time of a crisis, such as pandemic influenza. However, the question as to whether medical students fall under the category “healthcare worker” becomes more ethically controversial. Those students who enter the clinical setting to care for patients, and who are part of the team of clinicians engaged in diagnostic and treatment practices, should fall under the category “healthcare worker,” regardless of their status as “medical student.” Not only do these students (third and fourth year students) have acquired basic skills and knowledge to care for patients during an influenza pandemic, but they have completed the first of a series of examinations toward licensure, which transitions them from academic student to clinical student and emphasizes their commitment to medicine. In continuing with their commitment to medicine, clinical students should be morally obligated to assist, based on their level of skill and knowledge, during a pandemic. Medical students who fulfill this moral obligation should have additional training, besides their normal academic and clinical activities, to protect them from any risks. Informed consent procedures, additional clinical training specific to pandemics, and liability issues must be part of their preparedness. In this presentation, I examine the risks and benefits of having medical students participate as healthcare workers during a pandemic, concluding that although it is ultimately the individual's choice to participate, it should be viewed as a moral obligation based on a commitment to medicine.

Learning Objectives:
To discuss the moral benefits and risks of having medical students act as healthcare workers during an influenza pandemic To examine key public health ethical principles that support the conclusion that medical students are morally obligated to help patients during a pandemic

Keywords: Public Health Education, Ethics

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I have had experience in implementing policies in home instution regarding medical students' obligations to care for others during a pandemic
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.