Abstract Background Limited research indicated patients were largely amenable to seeing medical students pre-pandemic. However, the COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the potential risk of nosocomial transmission and harm to patients from students. Patient opinions regarding these risks remain unexplored, which impacts elicitation of informed consent. We aim to identify these, and explore whether reflection on the risks and benefits of direct student interaction influenced patients’ attitudes. For guidance, we further explored measures to reduce perceived infection risk. Method We designed an original questionnaire for a cross-sectional study, completed by 200 inpatients from 25 wards between 18/02 and 16/03/2022 at Derriford Hospital, Plymouth. Patients in intensive care, with active COVID-19 infection or unable to comprehend the study information were excluded. The responses of a guardian were recorded for inpatients under 16. 17 questions were included - the initial question, reporting willingness to talk with and be examined by students, was repeated following nine questions exploring risks and benefits of student interaction. A further four questions addressed reducing the perceived infection risk. Data is summarised using frequencies and percentages, and with Wilcoxon signed-rank and rank-sum tests of association. Results 85.4% (169/198) of participants gave an initial positive response to seeing medical students, and despite a third of participants changing their response 87.9% (174/197) remained willing after the survey resulting in no significant change. Furthermore, 87.2% (41/47) of those who perceived themselves at severe risk of harm from COVID-19 remained happy to see students. Participants reported reassurance knowing students were: fully vaccinated (76.0%); wearing masks (71.5%); lateral flow test negative within the last week (68.0%) and wearing gloves and gown (63.5%). Conclusion This study demonstrated the willingness of patients to engage in medical education despite recognised risks. Patient reflection on the risks and benefits of student interaction did not significantly reduce numbers willing to see students. Even those perceiving a risk of serious harm remained happy to have direct student contact – a demonstration of altruism in medical education. This suggests informed consent should include discussion of infection control measures, risks and benefits to patients and students, and offer alternatives to direct inpatient contact.



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BMC Medical Education





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Peninsula Medical School