A brief interactive training with medical students improves their diabetes knowledge about hypoglycemia

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© 2019 The Author(s). Background: Hypoglycemia is a severe clinical problem with physical and psychosocial implications for people with type 1 and type 2 diabetes. Medical students would benefit from formal education on how to treat hypoglycemia as well as how to administer glucagon in case of a severe hypoglycemic emergency. The purpose of this study was to assess the effectiveness of a brief training to improve medical students' knowledge and attitudes about diabetes, hypoglycemia, and glucagon administration. Methods: We conducted a feasibility study to assess the effectiveness of an interactive training session on diabetes education with an emphasis on hypoglycemia. We measured medical students' knowledge and attitudes toward diabetes, hypoglycemia, and glucagon before and after the training. We performed Chi-Square tests, paired t-tests, determined effect sizes using Cohen's d, and analyzed short answer responses via content and thematic analyses. Results: Two hundred and seventeen participants (age = 25.1 ± 2.3 years, 45.2% female, 78.3% white, 36.4% planned to pursue primary care, response rate of 94.3%) completed surveys. Following the training, participants' total knowledge scores improved by five percentage points to 82.6 ± 11.0% (t-value = 7.119, p < 0.001). We also observed positive improvements in the General Test scores to 82.3 ± 12.6% (t-value = 5.844, p < 0.001) and Insulin Use Test scores to 82.4 ± 17.4% (t-value = 4.103, p < 0.001). For the hypoglycemia test, participants averaged 55.7 ± 24.8% pre-training and 83.0 ± 22.4% post-training (t-value = 14.258, p < 0.001). Lastly, participants scored 87.6 ± 18.5% on the glucagon test after the training session. In addition, we observed positive improvements in all five diabetes attitudes subscales after the training, with the largest magnitude of change in the "Psychosocial impact of diabetes" subscale (t-value = 9.249, p < 0.001, Cohen's d = 0.60). Qualitatively, more participants recognized the severity of hypoglycemia after the training. They also learned how to approach diabetes from the patient's perspective and valued the clinically relevant and practical information provided during the training session, such as the "15-15 Rule." Conclusions: Medical students need to learn about patients' everyday experiences of diabetes in order to have an understanding of and confidence to assess and treat hypoglycemia. These findings underscore the importance of training medical students on how to actively assess and manage the risk of hypoglycemia in people with diabetes.