Monday, December 17, 2012

Happy Holidays

This is the final post of this year, and all I wish to do is to wish all of you a happy holiday break and a very happy new year.

I know the last week has been filled with national news of horror and despair, news which has hurt us all so very much, but there is always wonderment in the world, as this little, gentle, youtube clip shows:
Have a wonderful and restful break. See you in 2013.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Elements of Online Course Design

As education develops, the use of online teaching platforms is growing, and it is possible that some of us may have opportunity to test these waters in the future, notably if you work in the area of continuing professional education. People no longer wish to travel and give up precious work time, so the use of online teaching for CE has grown. But the technology also needs to take into account the differences that exist with regard to learning online versus in a classroom or clinical setting. Here are just a few of the notable differences. This information comes from an excellent but slender book by Vai and Sosulski (1).

Absence of a physical teaching space- you are not in a classroom anymore and thus the way you interact with a student is radically altered.
Planning and creating online class content- you need to work out your course material well in advance since much of it is to be posted in some fashion (as text, or a podcast, or youtube clip,etc0>

Communicating online as opposed to in person- this is a key consideration. You no longer have the ability to immediately answer a student’s question simply because they raised their hand. Your affect is lost, students cannot see you body language or facial language, etc. Much of your communication is likely going to occur via email or from communication via posting boards.
Delayed feedback- you cannot be available 24 hours per day, 7 days per week. You need to write with clarity so as to not complicate understanding, you should anticipate questions, you should clearly articulate goals and assignments, etc.

Visual design- you need to give thought about how you depict content on a webpage, you need to account for different browsers, operating systems and computers, and you need to understand the basics of web design as it relates to learning.
Flexibility- online education has elements of flexibility that classroom teaching does not, so as a result deadlines, for example, become important.

Time online- this is something people need to become accustomed to. You will spend lots of time in front of a computer.
Class participation- this is also important. Directions regarding the need to spend time online and offline should be given, as well as for how and how often to post responses to questions.

Office hours- you can use technologies such as Skype to hold actual office hours, or provide instructions online as to how you can be reached.
There are new and novel challenges to taking advantage of this medium, but it is certainly going to become more common in the future.

1.       Vai M, Sosulski K. Essentials of online course design: a standards-based approach. New York, NY; Routledge, 2011


Monday, December 3, 2012

Three New Papers from Biomed Central Journals

Schafer LM, Hsu C, Eaves ER, Ritenbaugh C, Turner J, Cherkin DC, Sims C, Sherman J. Complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) providers' views of chronic low back pain patients' expectations of CAM therapies: a qualitative study. BMC Compl Altern Med 2012, 12:234 doi:10.1186/1472-6882-12-234

Background: Some researchers think that patients with higher expectations for CAM therapies experience better outcomes and that enthusiastic providers can enhance treatment outcomes. This is in contrast to evidence suggesting conventional medical providers often reorient patient expectations to better match what providers believe to be realistic. However, there is a paucity of research on CAM providers' views of their patients' expectations regarding CAM therapy and the role of these expectations in patient outcomes.

Methods: To better understand how CAM providers view and respond to their patients' expectations of a particular therapy, we conducted 32 semi-structured, qualitative interviews with acupuncturists, chiropractors, massage therapists and yoga instructors identified through convenience sampling. Interviews were recorded, transcribed and analyzed thematically using Atlas ti version 6.1.
Results: CAM providers reported that they attempt to ensure that their patients' expectations are realistic. Providers indicated they manage their patients' expectations in a number of domains--- roles and responsibilities of providers and patients, treatment outcomes, timeframe for improvement, and treatment experience. Providers reported that patients' expectations change over time and that they need to continually manage these expectations to enhance patient engagement and satisfaction with treatment.

Conclusions: Providers of four types of CAM therapies viewed patients' expectations as an important component of their experiences with CAM therapy and indicated that they try to align patient expectations with reality. These findings suggest that CAM providers are similar in this respect to conventional medical providers.

Byszewski A, Hendelman W, Mcguinty C, Moineua G. Wanted: role models - medical students' perceptions of professionalism. BMC Med Educ 2012, 12:115 doi:10.1186/1472-6920-12-115

Background: Transformation of medical students to become medical professionals is a core competency required for physicians in the 21st century. Role modeling was traditionally the key method of transmitting this skill. Medical schools are developing medial curricula which are explicit in ensuring students develop the professional competency and understand the values and attributes of this role.The purpose of this study was to determine student perception of Professionalism at the University of Ottawa and gain insights for improvement in promotion of professionalism in undergraduate medical education.

Methods: Survey on student perception of professionalism in general, the curriculum and learning environment at the University of Ottawa, and the perception of student behaviors, was developed by faculty and students and sent electronically to all University of Ottawa medical students. The survey included both quantitative items including an adapted Pritzker list and qualitative responses to eight open ended questions on professionalism at the University of Ottawa. All analyses were performed using SAS version 9.1 (SAS Institute Inc. Cary, NC, USA). Chi-square and Fischer's exact test (for cell count less than 5) were used to derive p-values for categorical variables by level of student learning.
Results: Response rate was 45.6% (255 of 559 students) for all four years of the curriculum. 63% of the responses were from students in years 1 and 2 (pre-clerkship). Students identified role modeling as the single most important aspect of professionalism. The strongest curricular recommendations included faculty-led case scenario sessions, enhancing inter-professional interactions and the creation of special awards to staff and students to "celebrate" professionalism. Current evaluation systems were considered least effective. The importance of role modeling and information how to report lapses and breaches was highlighted in the answers to the open ended questions.

Conclusions: Students identify the need for strong positive role models in their learning environment, and for effective evaluation of the professionalism of students and teachers. Medical school leaders must facilitate development of these components within the MD education and faculty development programs as well as in clinical milieus where student learning occurs.

Davis MA, Mackenzie TA, Coulter ID, Whedon JM, Weeks WB. The United States Chiropractic Workforce: An alternative or complement to primary care? Chiropr Man Ther 2012, 20:35 doi:10.1186/2045-709X-20-35

Background: In the United States (US) a shortage of primary care physicians has become evident. Other health care providers such as chiropractors might help address some of the nation's primary care needs simply by being located in areas of lesser primary care resources. Therefore, the purpose of this study was to examine the distribution of the chiropractic workforce across the country and compare it to that of primary care physicians.

Methods: We used nationally representative data to estimate the per 100,000 capita supply of chiropractors and primary care physicians according to the 306 predefined Hospital Referral Regions. Multiple variable Poisson regression was used to examine the influence of population characteristics on the supply of both practitioner-types.
Results: According to these data, there are 74,623 US chiropractors and the per capita supply of chiropractors varies more than 10-fold across the nation. Chiropractors practice in areas with greater supply of primary care physicians (Pearson's correlation 0.17, p-value < 0.001) and appear to be more responsive to market conditions (i.e. more heavily influenced by population characteristics) in regards to practice location than primary care physicians.

Conclusion: These findings suggest that chiropractors practice in areas of greater primary care physician supply. Therefore chiropractors may be functioning in more complementary roles to primary care as opposed to an alternative point of access.