Poll: Are medical students obligated to respond to medical emergencies?

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When asked what role they think off-the-clock physicians and medical students should play during a medical emergency, 80 percent of clinicians feel morally obligated to act despite a number of clinicians who do not feel entirely comfortable with responding, according to a Medscape poll.

Although the majority of medical students want to help during a medical emergency, they often feel limited by lack of experience and expertise, a medical student argued in a recent Medscape post.

To further explore this issue, Medscape received 1,922 responses from healthcare professionals in a poll asking whether medical students should volunteer to help in an emergency, which clinicians are qualified to help in a medical emergency while off-duty, whether clinicians feel a moral obligation to respond to an off-duty medical emergency and whether they feel comfortable responding to these emergencies.

Here are four poll insights.

1. Responding to whether a medical student should volunteer to help in an emergency, 40 percent said yes, regardless of their year in school, 20 percent said yes, if they are a fourth-year student or above, 16 percent said yes, if they are at least a third-year student, 11 percent said medical students were not qualified to assist in medical emergencies, 10 percent were unsure and 3 percent said yes, if they are at least a second-year student.

2. When asked about which clinicians they believe are qualified to help in an off-duty medical emergency and given the option to select all that apply, 94 percent of respondents said physicians, 84 percent said nurses/nurse practitioners, 73 percent said physician assistants, 49 percent said certified medical assistants and 2 percent checked none of the above.

3. The majority of clinicians (80 percent) said they feel a moral obligation to respond to an off-duty medical emergency.

4. When asked whether they feel comfortable responding to medical emergencies while off-duty, 53 percent of clinicians said yes, 23 percent said no, 20 percent were unsure and 4 percent said the question did not apply.

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