Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

Undergraduate medical education in emergency medical care: A nationwide survey at German medical schools

Stefan K Beckers127*, Arnd Timmermann37, Michael P Müller47, Matthias Angstwurm57 and Felix Walcher67

Author Affiliations

1 Section Emergency Medical Care, Department of Anaesthesiology, Medical Faculty RWTH Aachen University, Aachen, Germany

2 AIXTRA – Aix-la-Chapelle Centre for Interdisciplinary Training in Medical Education, Aachen, Germany

3 Department of Anaesthesiology, Emergency and Intensive Care Medicine, University Hospital Georg-August University, Göttingen, Germany

4 Department of Anaesthesiology and Intensive Care Medicine, University of Technology, Dresden, Germany

5 Department of Internal medicine, Medical faculty, Ludwig-Maximilians-University, Munich, Germany

6 Department of Traumatology, University Hospital Frankfurt/Main, Germany

7 Committee for Emergency Medical Care and Simulation, German Association for Medical Education, Germany

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BMC Emergency Medicine 2009, 9:7  doi:10.1186/1471-227X-9-7

Published: 12 May 2009



Since June 2002, revised regulations in Germany have required "Emergency Medical Care" as an interdisciplinary subject, and state that emergency treatment should be of increasing importance within the curriculum. A survey of the current status of undergraduate medical education in emergency medical care establishes the basis for further committee work.


Using a standardized questionnaire, all medical faculties in Germany were asked to answer questions concerning the structure of their curriculum, representation of disciplines, instructors' qualifications, teaching and assessment methods, as well as evaluation procedures.


Data from 35 of the 38 medical schools in Germany were analysed. In 32 of 35 medical faculties, the local Department of Anaesthesiology is responsible for the teaching of emergency medical care; in two faculties, emergency medicine is taught mainly by the Department of Surgery and in another by Internal Medicine. Lectures, seminars and practical training units are scheduled in varying composition at 97% of the locations. Simulation technology is integrated at 60% (n = 21); problem-based learning at 29% (n = 10), e-learning at 3% (n = 1), and internship in ambulance service is mandatory at 11% (n = 4). In terms of assessment methods, multiple-choice exams (15 to 70 questions) are favoured (89%, n = 31), partially supplemented by open questions (31%, n = 11). Some faculties also perform single practical tests (43%, n = 15), objective structured clinical examination (OSCE; 29%, n = 10) or oral examinations (17%, n = 6).


Emergency Medical Care in undergraduate medical education in Germany has a practical orientation, but is very inconsistently structured. The innovative options of simulation technology or state-of-the-art assessment methods are not consistently utilized. Therefore, an exchange of experiences and concepts between faculties and disciplines should be promoted to guarantee a standard level of education in emergency medical care.