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Preparing medical students for a pandemic: a systematic review of student disaster training programmes
  1. James Ashcroft1,
  2. Matthew H V Byrne2,
  3. Peter A Brennan3,
  4. Richard Justin Davies1,4
  1. 1 Cambridge Colorectal Unit, Addenbrooke's Hospital, Cambridge, UK
  2. 2 Department of Urology, Addenbrooke's Hospital, Cambridge, UK
  3. 3 Maxillofacial Surgery, Queen Alexandra Hospital, Portsmouth, UK
  4. 4 School of Clinical Medicine, University of Cambridge, Cambridge, Cambridgeshire, UK
  1. Correspondence to Dr James Ashcroft, Cambridge Colorectal Unit, Addenbrooke's Hospital, Cambridge CB2 0QQ, UK; jamesashcroft36{at}


Objective To identify pandemic and disaster medicine-themed training programmes aimed at medical students and to assess whether these interventions had an effect on objective measures of disaster preparedness and clinical outcomes. To suggest a training approach that can be used to train medical students for the current COVID-19 pandemic.

Results 23 studies met inclusion criteria assessing knowledge (n=18, 78.3%), attitude (n=14, 60.9%) or skill (n=10, 43.5%) following medical student disaster training. No studies assessed clinical improvement. The length of studies ranged from 1 day to 28 days, and the median length of training was 2 days (IQR=1–14). Overall, medical student disaster training programmes improved student disaster and pandemic preparedness and resulted in improved attitude, knowledge and skills. 18 studies used pretest and post-test measures which demonstrated an improvement in all outcomes from all studies.

Conclusions Implementing disaster training programmes for medical students improves preparedness, knowledge and skills that are important for medical students during times of pandemic. If medical students are recruited to assist in the COVID-19 pandemic, there needs to be a specific training programme for them. This review demonstrates that medical students undergoing appropriate training could play an essential role in pandemic management and suggests a course and assessment structure for medical student COVID-19 training.

Registration The search strategy was not registered on PROSPERO—the international prospective register of systematic reviews—to prevent unnecessary delay.

  • education & training (see medical education & training)
  • medical education & training
  • trauma management
  • accident & emergency medicine

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  • JA and MHVB are joint first authors.

  • Twitter @JamesAshcroftMD, @mhvbyrne, @BrennanSurgeon, @jdcamcolorectal

  • Contributors JA and RJD undertook conceptualisation of this article. JA and MHVB undertook data collection, analysed the data, and drafted and revised the manuscript. RJD and PB undertook critical review of all data collection and analysis and guided critical revisions. RJD approved final manuscript for submission.

  • 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.

  • Patient consent for publication Not required.

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

  • Data availability statement Data are available in a public, open access repository. Not applicable.

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