The Reading Habits of Medicine Clerks at One Medical School: Frequency, Usefulness, and Difficulties

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Abstract

Purpose

To describe the reading habits of medicine clerks, which previously have not been well described. Understanding issues related to student reading habits may provide insights and opportunities for medical educators to develop methods to improve clerks' clinical clerkship experiences and their information literacy skills.

Method

The authors administered an 18-item survey tool to 120 students on their first inpatient internal medicine clerkships at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in 2002–03. The questionnaire focused on issues related to what and how often they read during their basic medicine clerkship. Data were explored mainly with descriptive statistics.

Results

One hundred twelve of 120 (93%) medicine clerks completed the survey. Clerks reported reading for an average of 10.8 (SD 5.6) hours per week (median ten hours per week, range one to 30 hours per week). The most commonly used and useful reading sources were UpToDate® and test preparation textbooks. Approximately 30% of students reported substantial problems in reading about their patients. Limited data suggest that reading habits and learning methods vary by year of medical school. Clerks are given disparate advice on appropriate reading sources to consult by attending physicians, resident physicians, and fellow students.

Conclusions

Students spend significant amounts of time reading online sources during their medicine clerkship, especially UpToDate. Medical educators should become familiar with these sources and contribute to maximizing their effectiveness for students. Additional research focused on understanding how students build skills in information literacy and how educational programs can facilitate the development of those skills is needed.

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