Social Media in Medical Education: “There is still work to be done”

By Sian Claire Owen

Rosalyn Scott, MD, a member of CTSNet, a not-for profit organisation created by the Society of Thoracic Surgeons (STS), the American Association for Thoracic Surgery (AATS) and the European Association for Cardio-thoracic Surgery (EACTS), shared her thoughts of the 2nd International Conference on Virtual Patients and MedBiquitous Annual Meeting.

Social media in medical and healthcare education was heavily emphasised during this event. Issues that were raised included how to encourage effective communication and online interaction between students and teachers, and how to bridge the gap between the two.

“I think it’s interesting that, during the un-conference, attendees talked about how learners would not communicate very well when they knew the teachers were also seeing what was going on,” said Scott.

“So this whole sense of still being private and figuring out how to communicate is a challenge that we all need to have,” she added. “I think there is still work to be done to see how we, as educators, can learn how best to integrate and work within that medium to make the students feel comfortable.”

Students must also be encouraged to be careful what personal information they make public. “Young people tend to be a little bit brash about some of their behaviours,” she said. “And I think that, as professionals we all need to understand that what we do in our youth can impact our reputation in the future. So there probably is some etiquette that needs to be conveyed to the students in how they make public some of these social media activities.”

In addition to Social Media, Scott described the work with e-learning and simulations that she and colleagues have been carrying out at the Veterans Affairs Centre (VA).

“With the VA Simulation Project, we’re really focusing on the workforce, so we’re asking questions like how do we take these virtual patient modalities and make them relevant for workers, for the people who are not learning initially, but who have some expertise and need to have refined expertise,” she said.

Scott also looked into how she could provide tools for ‘just in time’ education in order to react to events, negative and positive, in the hospital. “One of the models that we’re thinking about is to develop at the neck of the 23 networks that the VA has, a small group of people how can turn around virtual patients very quickly in response to events at the hospital,” she said. “Whether it be something that went well or poorly, and we really want to educate the staff.”

The key is exploring new ways of using existing technology to benefit both learners and students, and this reactive model “is going to be a new way we use some of this technology.”

Read Part One and Part Three of the ICVP 2010 & MedBiquitous Annual Meeting closing sessions.

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