By Cait Etherington January 29, 2017
A new British study reports that eLearning for new doctors offers many benefits. The study emphasizes that in order for any eLearning program to work, however, one must pay careful attention to several factors. First, it is important to take user experience into account. Second, one must have widespread buy-in from participants, including supervisors. Third, providing time for young doctors to complete modules on the job and rewarding them for their completed work is also critical. These conclusions are based on a study of junior doctors enrolled in a required Foundation training program targeting doctors in their first two years after qualifying with a medical degree from university.
In the past, British trainee doctors were required to spend three hours in continuing education each week. Today, across the United Kingdom, there is a growing move to offer these mandatory training sessions online using smartphone applications and other eLearning innovations. Among some of the key forms of education offered in Foundations are safe prescribing practices. To this end, Health Education England created SCRIPT, which is a web-based eLearning program to increase effective and rational prescribing. A 2017 study published by Hannah Brooks et al, “Perceptions and Impact of Mandatory eLearning for Foundation Trainee Doctors: A Qualitative Evaluation,” used the Kirkpatrick’s model of training evaluation to study trainee’s perceptions of the program and baseline results. Over all, Brooks’ study found that using eLearning in this context was highly effective.
As reported by Brooks et al., “SCRIPT eLearning comprises 48 modules across a range of specialities relating to prescribing and therapeutics. Modules include topics such as prescribing in Diabetic Emergencies, Renal Dysfunction, and the management of Sepsis. The modules were developed by a multidisciplinary team of healthcare professionals and are updated on a regular basis. Each module comprises a set of multiple choice questions, the main body of learning content, post-test questions, and suggested further reading.” Notably, following the post-test questions, students are also able to download a certificate of completion. However, the key aim of SCRIPT is to encourage “self-directed learning relating to prescribing” and over all, this form of eLearning for new doctors offers many benefits.
Brooks and her colleagues used focus groups to assess the effectiveness of SCRIPT . In total, they spoke to 38 doctors from 14 medical schools in the UK and one medical school outside the UK. Over all, they found that eLearning for new doctors offers many benefits. Below are some of the study’s key findings.
First, many participants reported that “their medical training adequately prepared them for practice from a theoretical perspective; however, they did not necessarily feel confident in their ability to prescribe in practice.” For this reason, at least some respondents suggested that it would have been beneficial to have a program like SCRIPT prior to starting their first job. Second, the study found that there were both benefits and drawbacks to making the program required or optional and asking trainees to complete the program on the job or on their own time. One of the key factors in the program success, however, turned out to be related to something not at all related to the learners but rather related to supervisors: “Some participants perceived that their supervisors and clinical educators did not value SCRIPT and did not often discuss trainees’ progress at review meetings, unless the trainee had failed to complete the required mandatory components. As one F1 trainee (site 1) highlighted, ‘Our tutors just don’t care. They have more important things to do.'” Finally, and not surprisingly, user experience was a critical consideration. As Brooks and her colleagues conclude, “A number of factors appeared to influence the user experience, including the rationale for using the programme, the relevance of content, structure and purpose of using the programme, as well as the individualisation of the learning to different learning styles and learning needs over time. Preparedness also appeared to impact upon the user experience.”
eLearning for new doctors offers many benefits and may also have future applications. As Brooks explains, there is no question that moving forward, the success of such programs will likely rest on providing dedicated time to complete modules on the job. She also notes that since young doctors are very busy, it would be advantageous to “decrease the length of certain modules to provide bite-size chunks of information that allow trainees to complete the learning in a reasonable time.” While Brooks’ study focused on SCRIPT, future research may also consider how similar education can be used to promote