'Medutainment' project explores alternatives to make medical learning stick

A game show to learn the latest standards for treating community-acquired pneumonia. A race to get into the proper protective gear for taking care of patients with different infectious diseases. Cookie decorating to classify common symptoms.

This is residency training?

It most certainly is – and more. It is part of a research project to analyze how new generations of residents learn best, a project supervised by faculty in the Divisions of General and Community Pediatrics and Hospital Medicine and performed by the residents themselves. Those taking part are not simply learning the details of pediatric medicine, they are learning about new ways to learn.

The offbeat learning exercises reflect a growing trend that some call “medutainment,” which uses game theory, adult learning theory, and technology to create interactive learning methods to enhance the traditional classroom experience.

At Cincinnati Children’s, as many as 60 residents a day gather for the traditional “morning report,” where other residents or faculty present a daily lesson. Many presentations involve people standing at a lectern, clicking through PowerPoint slides.

This project seeks to spice things up.

“The cookie exercise was one part of a larger presentation. It made people think more deeply about how to go about describing the diagnostic signs of different illnesses,” says Karen Jerardi, MD, director of the Hospital Medicine residency elective, who helped organize the group. “When symptoms appear similar on the surface, how do you teach a student to tell the difference between strep throat and something much worse? One way is to lecture about it. But if you can show it, if you can come up with a way to demonstrate it, then that really sticks.”

These adaptations are particularly important to newer generations of students, who come from a world of multimedia, social networking and video gaming. They expect a higher level of hands-on learning.

“Just being more involved – even if it is just knowing that you will be the next person who has to stand up in the exercise – will help people get more out of the meeting,” Jerardi says.

The research project involves pre-and post-education questions to measure knowledge gained and resident attitudes. Conferences that included new techniques will be compared against traditional formats.

In addition to improving daily presentations, Jerardi hopes the project will lead to better ways to reach residents working shifts that prevent them from attending morning report.

“That’s our next step: looking at how we can use podcasts and other ideas to reach the learners who are not in the room,” Jerardi says.