Title: Patient contacts during paramedic student field internships
Authors: David Page, MS, NREMT-P; Koren Kaye, MD; Nicole Stethem MD;

INTRODUCTION
Current national guidelines require that paramedic students complete field internships (ambulance ride alongs) as part of their training. Guidelines suggest leading 50 patient contacts. Measuring learning during pre-hospital internships is a challenge. Little research exists regarding the experiences students obtain during field internships.

HYPOTHESIS
Paramedic students completing field internships come into contact with at least fifty patients.

METHODS
Starting in July 1997, paramedic students participating in the Field Internship Data Acquisition Project (FISDAP), a national computerized EMS student tracking system, were asked to consent to their anonymous data being prospectively gathered and used for research. After completing ambulance clinicals, students used a web based system to report their experiences. For verification purposes, a paper evaluation was also completed by each student's preceptor. Instructors at each of the participating training programs then compared the computerized records to the paper records. A record was designated as good data if, after auditing, it was considered accurate and complete. Only data from students who successfully graduated from a paramedic program was used.

For this abstract, records from April 1999 to October 2003 were analyzed. Out of 5,783 students who started FISDAP accounts, 3,210 (56%) consented to their data being used for research. Of these students, 891 (28%) were designated as good data. Seventy nine of these were later determined to contain suspect data and were discarded. The remaining 812 records, representing 65 geographically distinct institutions, were analyzed.


RESULTS
Students in this sample logged a combined total of 65,523 patient contacts during 272,282 hours of ambulance ride alongs. Students averaged 81 patient contacts during an average of 335 hours. Five hundred and forty two (67%) students came into contact with more than 50 patients. Students averaged one contact for every four hours of internship.

CONCLUSION
The majority of paramedic students have contact with 50 or more patients during their field internship. A significant amount (33%) saw less than fifty patients. More research is needed to determine quantity and quality of experience that will help graduate competent entry-level paramedics.