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Fam Med. 2010 May;42(5):350-7.

A PDA-based counseling tool for improving medical student smoking cessation counseling.

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  • 1Departments of Family Medicine and Public Health Sciences, School of Medicine, University of Virginia, Charlottesville, VA 22908, USA.



There is little research on training medical students in smoking cessation counseling (SCC). This study aimed to determine if a personal digital assistant (PDA)-based SCC tool can improve medical student SCC.


We conducted a randomized, controlled trial with third-year medical students. SCC behaviors, comfort, and knowledge were assessed using a validated survey before students attended a workshop on SCC. Student groups were then randomized to receive a paper-based reminder tool or the reminder plus a PDA-based SCC tool. The validated survey was repeated upon clerkship completion, and a videotaped standardized patient interview was assessed by trained reviewers using a 24-item SCC checklist. Focus groups assessed satisfaction with the PDA tool, usability, and barriers to use.


SCC behaviors, knowledge, and comfort increased among all participants, with no statistical differences between groups. The PDA tool group performed 62% of key SCC activities during the videotaped interview, while the control group performed 69%. Students reported discomfort using the PDA with patients, lack of time, and lack of training as barriers to use of the tool.


We demonstrated improvement of SCC skills by third-year medical students using a workshop combined with a supplemental reference tool. However, a PDA-based tool did not increase key SCC behaviors compared with a paper-based reminder. For a PDA intervention to be effective in this setting, the tool must be simplified and additional training provided.

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