Academic journal article Journal of the Medical Library Association

Continuing Education for Medical Students: A Library Model

Academic journal article Journal of the Medical Library Association

Continuing Education for Medical Students: A Library Model

Article excerpt


Locating, critically analyzing, and applying current research evidence are essential skills for all medical students for their future in patient care and research. However, the opportunities to teach these skills in the curriculum are severely limited. The current medical library literature focuses on integration of medical information literacy skills into the curriculum [1] but provides few answers on how to address lack of time in the curriculum.

A potential model for extracurricular instruction does exist. Professional licensing boards require health care professionals to complete continuing medical education (CME) programs to maintain their certification. The beauty of CME is that individuals can select and voluntarily attend CME sessions that are relevant to their immediate needs. The literature has also documented positive value in teaching information literacy skills at this level [2, 3]. What if this CME model was applied to medical school alongside course-integrated instruction? Would medical students recognize the value in such a program and voluntarily attend extracurricular sessions designed to meet their needs? An emerging medical library with a solid presence in the curriculum felt there were gaps in particular areas of medical information literacy and developed a program of extracurricular seminars for first- and second-year medical students.

The objective of this study is to describe this CME-inspired extracurricular program in information literacy and assess its perceived value by medical students, as well as compare the attitudes of students who utilized the program and those who did not.


Program features and implementation

The medical library at the Oakland University William Beaumont School of Medicine offered an extracurricular program consisting of six to seven sessions each year, approximately once per month, modeled after CME seminars. Each session was one hour in length and typically included a short lecture and demonstration followed by hands-on exercises or informal discussion. A catered lunch was served as an incentive for participation. Topics, determined by librarians, were based on perceived gaps in the curriculum, reference questions from students, and major milestones, such as the United States Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE) Step 1, which students must pass in order to progress to the clinical years. Given the investment of time, effort, and money, the library decided to evaluate the program for quality and to find ways to increase participation.

Program evaluation

The program was evaluated using an internal evaluation survey and two focus groups of medical students (attendees versus non-attendees).


An anonymous, five-item evaluation survey, including both quantitative and qualitative items, was distributed at the end of the first year of programming for internal use to gauge whether the series was useful and whether to continue it the next year. An electronic version was emailed to attendees, and a print version was distributed at the last session. The survey asked students to rate the quality of instruction, relevance to coursework, and convenience, as well as what sessions should be repeated.

Focus groups

Following the second year, with approval from the institutional review board, two focus groups were conducted to assess the series. One group consisted of attendees of at least one session, the second of students who did not attend any session. This qualitative method was selected to supplement the previous survey with rich discussion, provide a diverse set of perspectives and opinions, and compare the responses between attendees and non-attendees. Each forty-five-to-sixty-minute focus group was conducted in person with two members of the research team as moderator and note taker. Audio recordings of the sessions were made with a laptop and then transcribed and made anonymous by the primary investigator. …

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