16 Apr 2023

Teaching hospitals need to do more to educate about consent - study

9:01 pm on 16 April 2023
Male nurse taking pulse of senior patient at hospital.

Photo: 123rf.com

A new study into obtaining informed consent for medical students taking part in patient care shows there is still work to be done.

Ekta Bagga, a final year medical student at the University of Auckland, said the new study surveying students and senior officers (SMOs) at Taranaki Hospital, was done in response to a national study last year.

"[The] original study had unfortunately quite poor outcomes and showed that consent was being done really poorly."

That study suggested that medical students were sometimes encouraged to breach informed consent guidelines by their supervisors.

Bagga said their study did perform better than the national study.

"Our students were more likely to take the right measures and make sure that they had fully informed patient consent before becoming involved in their care," she said and "the senior doctors were more likely to take the consenting process seriously."

Bagga said the students at Taranaki Hospital were also far less likely to be asked "to perform a sensitive examination on a patient without their prior signed consent, compared to the national study".

Although the study looked at both students and SMOs, Bagga said the responsibility for obtaining consent ultimately needed to lay with the senior doctor not the student.

She said there were practices already in place at Taranaki Hospital that ensured consent was obtained such as forms that explicitly required consent for students to perform a sensitive exam.

But the study showed there was still a need for better education for both doctors and medical students regarding their responsibilities in gaining and ensuring appropriate consent for medical student involvement in patient care.

It also found there was also a need to better advertise to patients that they were entering a teaching hospital and medical students would be part of their medical team.

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