Student giving health advice to family and friends

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Abstract

Background:

This study explored graduate-entry medical students' experiences of health-advice requests from their family and friends.

Methods:

This was a descriptive thematic analysis study involving a convenience sample of medical students from the University of Warwick 4–year MB ChB graduate-entry medicine programme. Each participating student attended a one-to-one semi-structured interview. Audio recordings of the interviews were transcribed verbatim and analysed thematically. Data saturation of the main themes was achieved following 14 interviews.

Findings:

Of the 14 students, eight (57%) were males and six (43%) were females. Students were asked to advise on a range of human and veterinary health issues. They were prepared to offer advice on health issues that they felt competent to manage: for example, first-aid scenarios that a ‘reasonable layperson’ or a first-aider would be able to help with. The nature of health advice given by students became increasingly complex as they progressed through their degree programme; however, they generally refrained from giving advice on complex health issues and chose to refer the individual to seek help from competent professionals instead.

Discussion:

Previous research highlighted inappropriate advice could delay individuals seeking help from competent professionals, resulting in adverse clinical outcomes; however, we recommend that students should not be discouraged to act as good Samaritans. Instead, educators could help them to explore the professionalism and ethical issues raised by these requests, and the practical ways of handling these requests sensitively through discussion of case scenarios with acceptable and inappropriate behaviours.

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