A brief video intervention to improve medical students' attitudes toward prisoners


Laura A. Shinkunas, Christian M. Simon, Helen A. Schartz, Laurel J. Lyckholm

Objective: Healthcare professionals may have implicit biases against prisoners. This may lower the quality of care they receive, which is inconsistent with the moral principle of equivalence of care. The purpose of this study was to explore medical student attitudes toward prisoners and test the hypothesis that a brief video intervention that “humanizes” prisoners would improve those attitudes. Methods: Medical students (n = 163) at a Midwestern Academic Medical Center were randomly assigned to an intervention or control group. All participants completed a brief, electronic survey that included a validated scale in May 2016 at baseline (T1) and 3–4 days later (T2). Immediately after the baseline survey, the intervention group (n = 80) viewed a brief clip from a video documentary in which prisoners shared their stories; the control group (n = 83) did not view the video. Results: At T2, the intervention group reported significantly more favorable attitudes toward prisoners compared to the control group (p = 0.02). The intervention group also reported a significantly higher self-perceived attitude change than the control group (p = 0.044). Analysis of qualitative data revealed that 34% of students thought that the video clip presented a humanizing view of prisoners through their stories. Conclusion: A brief video intervention depicting prisoners as fallible human beings can have a positive impact on medical students’ attitudes toward prisoners. This type of intervention could be easily incorporated into medical student training. Future research should evaluate optimizing the effectiveness of video interventions in improving perceptions and testing video interventions on the ability to raise the consciousness of implicit biases against other stigmatized groups.