Assessing the Effectiveness of Pre-Departure Training for Professional Healthcare Students Working in Resource-Limited Settings

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Jason Ji Xu
Ian Pereira
Wendy Liu
Carol Herbert


pre-departure training, global health, competencies, medical student electives, personal health, travel safety, cultural awareness, language barrier, ethics


Purpose: International electives foster knowledge, skills, and desirable attitudes towards underserved populations for participating students. However, recent literature has overwhelmingly agreed that adequate training is essential to mitigate risk and maximize benefit for the growing number of these students and the communities they visit. National CFMS-AFMC pre-departure training (PDT) guidelines outline five competencies to be addressed by training programs: personal health, travel safety, cultural awareness, language competency, and ethical considerations. Unfortunately, evidence is lacking on the effectiveness of these programs, limiting their impact, sustainability, and standardization. This study explored the effectiveness of training for healthcare students delivered through the 2010 GET Ready! PDT Conference at the University of Western Ontario.
Methods: Using mixed methods, student confidence and understanding of PDT competencies were assessed using a retrospective post-pre survey and scenario-based paired focus groups.
Results: The survey showed statistically significant improvements in participants’ self-reported knowledge of guideline recommendations. The greatest improvements were reported for personal health, travel safety and the utilization of interpreters. Post-conference focus groups better navigated personal health and travel safety scenarios through improved identification of issues and development of more practical solutions.
Conclusion: The GET Ready! PDT Conference appeared to increase student confidence and understanding of travel safety, personal safety, and the effective utilization of interpreters. This suggests that similar training may be valuable for all professional healthcare students working in resource-limited settings. However, more research to assess the impact of delivered training for students while on an elective is still needed to further evaluate its effectiveness.