An Inner City Emergency Medicine Rotation Does Not Improve Attitudes toward the Homeless among Junior Medical Learners


Learners in the emergency department (ED) frequently encounter individuals who are homeless. We sought to evaluate the effect of an inner city emergency medicine rotation at the Royal Alexandra Hospital (RAH) on the attitudes of medical students and residents towards this population.


Data were collected both pre- and post-rotation using an electronic survey. Data collected included demographic information and as well as scores on the Health Professionals’ Attitudes Towards the Homeless Inventory (HPATHI). Pre- and post-survey results were compared using Wilcoxon tests.


Ninety-eight students completed the rotation. A total of 40 (41%) students completed both pre- and post-surveys. Demographic information was available for 66 respondents. Most participants were male (42 {64%}), single (47 {71%}), and 30 years of age or younger (59 {89%}). Most participants were of a Caucasian or East/South Asian background (61 {92%}) and grew up in an urban setting (51 {77%}). Overall, 43 (90%) participants saw at least one person who was homeless during their rotation. There was no significant difference between pre- and post- aggregate scores (z = -0.78, p = 0.44), or any of its three subscales (Personal Advocacy, Social Advocacy, and Cynicism).


First year residents and medical students are frequently exposed to patients who are homeless during an inner city ED rotation. Attitudes towards these patients did not significantly change following the rotation. Educational objectives should be set to improve attitudes of learners towards those with unstable housing throughout the ED rotation.

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