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Third-Year Medical Students' Understanding, Knowledge, and Attitudes Toward the Use of Electroconvulsive Therapy: A Pre-exposure and Postexposure Survey

Shah, Nurun MD; Averill, Patricia M. PhD

doi: 10.1097/YCT.0b013e3181a48779
Original Study

Objectives: The purpose of this study was to examine the impact of the third-year psychiatric clerkship at the University of Texas on medical students' perception about and attitudes toward electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) and to determine whether direct observation of the procedure by students impacts their attitudes differently than attendance of lectures only.

Methods: All third-year medical students were asked to complete a survey regarding their opinions about ECT before and after their third-year psychiatry rotation, and they were asked whether they received the required didactic ECT training alone or also received adjunctive observation training.

Results: The opinions of students in both groups (observed plus didactic vs didactic only) improved significantly from prerotation to postrotation. However, the opinions of those who observed ECT improved more than those who did not. The groups differed on only 1 item before the rotation.

Conclusions: Students in the observed plus didactic group had a more positive response to the items after rotation than did their peers. Given the effectiveness of ECT, it would be beneficial for all students to have exposure to observed ECT during their psychiatric rotation. This study should be replicated in other medical school settings. Future directions will focus on replicating the study but ensuring that students do not self-select into the observation group.

From the University of Texas Medical School Houston, TX.

Received for publication February 2, 2009; accepted February 25, 2009.

Reprints: Nurun Shah, MD, 2800 South McGregor, RM 3E 55, Houston, TX 77021 (e-mail:

© 2009 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.