Tablets increase UCLA neurosurgery residents' study time

Students in a UCLA neurosurgery residency training program given tablets and access to a digital library of resources studied more outside the hospital, according to an article published in Neurosurgery.

The program included a mandatory weekly conference in which faculty and residents made presentations that were videotaped for the digital library. Residents were given tablets to access the library, applications for document/video management, and interactive teaching tools, including collections of surgical pictures and videos.

"The 100 UCLA Subjects in Neurosurgery," a video podcast collection of essential lectures available free on the iTunes App store, was among the library content equivalent to that published in major medical journals.

In a survey of the first 12 participants in the program, 92 percent said that having the tablet prompted them to study more outside their clinical hours and two thirds used the tablet more often than a home or hospital PC. Several also had contributed operative videos, cases, and documents to the library. With limits placed on residents' clinical hours to reduce fatigue, adding study time was a goal of the program, reports Wolters Kluwer Health.

A year after introducing the program, the residents' performance on a standard assessment of neurosurgical knowledge improved in 16 out of 17 topic areas, with the gains statistically significant in six areas.

Last academic year, Harvard and Yale made iPads part of their medical school curriculum. Yale handed out 520 iPads to all of its medical students, while Harvard created a set of apps just for medical students. They joined medical schools including Stanford, Brown, the University of California-Irvine and the University of Minnesota in adding a technology component.

Harvard planned an iPhone app that would allow third-year students to track patient interactions on tablets. Though tablets offer a great solution for accessing the kind of information offered in the UCLA neurosurgery library, note-taking and data entry still pose hurdles on the small devices.

Meanwhile, the University of Toronto has added simulated training for surgery residents,  and Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit uses simulation to improve residents' decision-making skills in performing resuscitations in the emergency department.

Nursing education, too, these days increasingly includes not only smartphones and tablets, but also sophisticated simulation mannequins rather than live patients for practice.

To learn more:
- read the abstract
- here's the Wolters Kluwer Health announcement
- find "100 UCLA Subjects in Neurosurgery" on iTunes

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