To determine the incidence of acute respiratory and gastrointestinal tract illness and associated absence by third-year medical students during pediatric and nonpediatric (control) clinical clerkships.
A self-administered questionnaire was completed by students after the first 4 weeks of two pediatric clerkships (inpatient and outpatient) and two nonpediatric clerkships (obstetrics-gynecology and psychiatry). Information was obtained on the symptoms of acute respiratory and gastrointestinal tract illness and related absences.
Results from each student's pediatric clerkship were compared with the results from the same student's control clerkship by means of matched-pair analysis.
Students who made up the junior class at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical School at Dallas, July 1, 1990, to June 30, 1991.
Of 177 students (77%) who completed questionnaires after one pediatric and one control clerkship, 108 students (61%) had had an acute illness while on pediatric clerkships in contrast to 69 students (39%) on control clerkships (odds ratio, 3.3; 95% confidence interval, 2.0 to 5.4; P<.001). More students were absent for illness during pediatric than control clerkships (23 [13%] vs nine [5%], respectively; odds ratio, 2.7; 95% confidence interval, 1.2 to 6.2; P=.02). The higher risk of illness during pediatric clerkships was not related to the order of the pediatric or control clerkship, the order of inpatient and outpatient pediatrics, or the season of the year.
Pediatric clinical clerkships in the third year of medical school were associated with excess morbidity from acute infectious illness. Studies are needed to determine whether emphasizing infection control practices decrease this morbidity and any resulting nosocomial spread to patients.(Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med. 1995;149:1152-1155)