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Not quite a doctor, but should I help? A qualitative exploration of medical students’ attitudes towards responding to medical emergencies that occur in the public domain
  1. Jessica Ying-Yi Xie,
  2. Rachael Frost,
  3. Richard Meakin
  1. Research Department of Primary Care and Population Health, University College London, London, UK
  1. Correspondence to Dr Rachael Frost; rachael.frost{at}


Objective To explore medical students’ views on and experiences of responding to out-of-hospital medical emergencies.

Setting University College London (UCL).

Participants 11 UCL Medical School students.

Study design Qualitative.

Methods and outcome measures We carried out 11 one-to-one semistructured interviews, with participant validation and reflective work. The data were analysed using thematic analysis.

Results Three core themes were identified. (1) ‘We Did Debate a Bit: Should We Go? Should We Not?’—Students’ decisions to respond were based on the appearance of the casualty; the presence and actions of bystanders; witnessing the incident; self-perceived competence, confidence and knowledge; and personal experiences and feelings associated with medical emergencies. (2) ‘It Would Represent the Medical Profession Well if We Did Step In and Help’—Students felt that they had an ethical and/or professional duty to help. (3) ‘No One Should Die Because of a Lack of… Basic Life-Saving Techniques’—Students felt that medical school training alone had not sufficiently prepared them to respond to out-of-hospital medical emergencies. Improvements to training were suggested: integrating first aid/response training into the horizontal (systems-based) modules; teaching both common and less common medical emergencies and presentations; training that is led by experienced first responders and that increases students’ exposure to out-of-hospital medical emergencies; and providing more revision training sessions.

Conclusions Students felt that medical school training could be improved to better prepare them for responding to out-of-hospital medical emergencies, and wanted clarification on whether or not they have an ethical and/or professional duty to help. Further mixed-methods research using a larger sample needs to be carried out to confirm whether findings are transferable to other UK medical schools.

  • medical education & training
  • qualitative research
  • basic life support
  • medical ethics
  • medical law

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  • Contributors JY-YX was the main author who designed the study, collected and analysed the data and was the main author for the write-up. RF was the project supervisor with expertise in qualitative methods. RM was the chief investigator. Both RM and RF helped with every stage of the study, in particular the designing and analysis stages and provided input in the write-up. All authors have read and approved the final manuscript.

  • Funding The authors have not declared a specific grant for this research from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Ethics approval Ethical approval to carryout this study was received from University College London Research Ethics Committee (ref.12471/001). JX was prepared to signpost participants who found the interview upsetting to UCL student support.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

  • Data sharing statement This is a qualitative study and therefore the data generated are not suitable for sharing beyond that contained within the report. Further information can be obtained from the corresponding author.

  • Patient consent for publication Not required.