Physical and emotional impact of dissection: findings from a pioneer medical class in a Kenyan Medical School
Cadaver dissection is a significant life experience, and constitutes a potential stressor in medical education, with attendant physical and psychological effects. However, these effects have mostly been studied in established medical schools. We sought to determine the physical and emotional impact of cadaver dissection among medical students in a pioneer class. We administered two questionnaires: one on the first day of dissection, and the second six weeks later. Each examined the symptoms of cadaver exposure, and the emotional impact using the Appraisal of Life Events (ALE) scale, which measures the scores for challenge, threat and loss. The commonest symptoms reported were nausea, fear (with palpitations) and restlessness. Female students reported more symptoms compared to male students. Most symptoms reduced significantly after six weeks. In conclusion, we found that the dissection experience is challenging and stimulating to most students, as evidenced by higher ALE scores for challenge factor compared to threat and loss. We conclude that dissection, though physically exerting to students, is not considered and averse experience. The gender differences underlie the need for gender-tailored pre-dissection preparation and counselling.
Keywords: Cadaver, Dissection, Symptoms, Psychological, Appraisal of Life Events