The practice of medicine includes dealing with tons of information, from prescription drug updates to the latest evidence-based treatment guidelines. How does a med student keep current with disease, drug and guideline data while making rounds and learning the ropes of clinical care all at the same time?
With medical schools starting up again for the year, the physician-editors of DynaMed Plus offer their suggestions for med students. The DynaMed Plus editors are all MDs or DOs at institutions such as University of California – San Francisco, San Francisco General Hospital and Trauma Center, Harvard Medical School, Tufts University School of Medicine, and the College of Human Medicine at Michigan State University, and in private practice. They monitor research issued by every major clinical journal in the world, so they know about managing lots of data.
Here are their top 5 tips for med students to conquer information overload:
1. Take small bites—Avoid reading any journal cover-to-cover—it’s too overwhelming, not very useful, and most of the content will not be retained. Instead, subscribe to a core set of trusted journal abstracts, blogs, and podcasts you can access on your computer and mobile device. Save key articles to read later. The trick is to digest little bits of educational material when you have a few spare moments, such as between class time, waiting a long Starbucks line, etc.
2. Make a personal connection—Work with faculty to learn how to put new evidence into proper perspective and apply it to individual clinical situations. Information is better retained when it’s associated with a specific patient. This is a correlate of “information just in time vs. information just in case.”
3. Question everything—If something does not seem right, question its source and reliability. Your job is not to know everything, but to learn how to find, evaluate and use information.
4. Make technology your friend—While reading, take notes using Evernote or another cloud-based archival service, like Google Drive. Use a trusted tool like DynaMed Plus to help verify information and critically appraise the evidence.
5. It’s all in the attitude—Accept that you will never reach the end of learning about medicine. You can help tackle FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) by being a diligent lifelong learner and committing to learning a little bit every day.
While observing how physicians search for information, EBSCO Health learned that the periods of med school, internship and residency are the most critical times for determining what mobile apps and tech tools tomorrow’s doctors will use regularly. And these up-and-coming physicians’ biggest influences in adopting a tool or app are their peers and attending physicians.