Learn During Downtime on the Wards

How to Learn On the WardsLast year I quickly grew tired of carrying books in my lab coat pocket; they weighed me down and made my shoulders ache. However, I also loathe buying e-books for the iPad as most are poorly converted, rubbish scans of pages with poor search functionality. Instead, I used my phone to review and study whenever I had time to learn on the wards. Recently I sifted through my phone to delete several apps that I no longer use, and decide which ones were worth keeping for the end of fourth year.

So what did I use most to learn in my downtime?

A great deal of my time was spent looking up relevant info related to a patient and doing shelf practice questions (via Epocrates or Medscape), but you can’t do that all the time. To get knowledge in moments, either waiting in the doctors lounge between surgeries or after running out of scutwork, I turned to flashcards and apps that were entertainingly educational. I prefer snippets of info that would seep into my tired brain, and be interesting enough to keep my attention.

Figure 1

The Instagram for medicine, great for visual learners and available on both iPhone and Android. Around the world cases are put up by physicians, eager to share and teach, or looking for answers to a unique problem. You can take part in the conversation or simply quiz yourself on related topics. The infectious disease images are not ideal for checking during breakfast, nor in any sort of cafeteria line, but they’re perfect for those few minutes of down time when you want to learn something interesting. You can sort by system or by specialty, and it’s fun to look at specialty appropriate images during each rotation.

Medscape’s Fast Five

Fast Five Quizzes are convenient & quick quizzes about a wide variety of topics, which you can sign up to receive via email. Want to learn about diabetes or the Zika virus? There’s a FFQ for that. I especially like that they show the correct answer, and the most common answer, to each question, so you can feel smug when you get the correct answer, but the majority picked a wrong one.

These two are my favorite quick quiz/momentary education apps. If you have a suggestion leave it in the comments!

By Pixie






Pixie is happiest reading with a cup of tea in hand. She enjoys women’s health, adolescent medicine, painting and polymer clay. For more info, see her much longer bio on the author page.

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