Friday, June 03, 2011

A better way of making sure doctors learn and update themselves

If conferences are such a poor way of teaching doctors, then what can the profession do to ensure that doctors remain updated ? Is it possible to trust that all doctors are responsible professionals who will take the time and trouble to educate themselves on an ongoing continual basis ? Sadly, no. While most doctors are conscientious and will make a concerted effort to learn, not all will do so .

So what's a better option which will ensure that doctors learn reliable, updated, accurate evidence based medicine, without wasting time and money ?

The answer is surprisingly simple !

In medical college, doctors are used to memorising vast amounts of information from their medical textbooks, so that they can pass their examinations , qualify and start practise. Unfortunately, most of what they learn is very transitory and they forget most of it once they start practise. However, while doctors may forget book learning, they will always remember the lessons their patients teach them. The best way to learn medicine is to learn about the diseases your patients have ! Doctors learn best around their patients; and if you read about your patient's problem, you will remember what you read - and never forget this !

This is "sticky information" because you get a chance to apply it in real life - and once you have done so, it becomes a part of your personal knowledgebase !

Reading medical books and medical journal articles about the problem the patients you have is the best form of CME. Books and journals are authoritative; reliable; and peer reviewed. They are edited and quality controlled; and can be printed out and referred to when needed.

However, medical textbooks get outdated very quickly; medical journals are expensive ; and few doctors have the time to actually go to the medical library ! This is where technology can come to their rescue ! " Just in time " learning is the best way of learning anything - and the advent of the internet now allows doctors to learn about their patients at the "point of care".

I will look at reliable online resources in my next article, to show how doctors can use these to ensure their medical education is always updated !

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