Friday, June 24, 2011

#TwitterStudying: A Med Student’s Experiences with Twitter as a Study Tool and Support Network

Author: Brittany Chan, MBA

It’s been awhile since I’ve written here. For the past few weeks, I’ve been preparing for the USMLE Step 1, the first in a series of medical licensing exams. Current physicians likely have very fond memories of this exam—an eight-hour, 322 question nightmare that covers all the basic science material from the first two years of medical school and plays a large part in residency decisions.

When second year ended, I left Lubbock and came back home to Houston to study. With my parents at work, my sister at school, and my friends out of town, studying alone became quite monotonous. Though I spent most of the last few weeks buried in books, I also became very active on Twitter during this time. I’d never used Twitter to a great extent before, and as I networked with physicians and other medical students online, I found that at the end of six weeks I had learned just as much from them as I had from any of my review books.

I started using Twitter as a way to waste time when I needed a break from studying. Then something crazy happened. Twitter transformed from a major distraction to a valuable study tool. I began to tweet questions to fellow med students about concepts I didn’t understand, and they responded. Other students would tweet their confusions, and I’d attempt to explain the mechanism of a drug or the purpose of the alanine cycle. Many times, several others would chime in to augment our collective understanding or ask additional questions. We would tweet things like, "Causes of polycythemia... GO!" followed by hashtags such as #TwitterStudying and #TweetPimping. Fellow Step 1 studiers were often the ones participating in these conversations, but sometimes third- and fourth-year students and even physicians would contribute their knowledge. With no study partners in my local area, I found that these discussions helped me to comprehend difficult concepts, and were hopefully just as beneficial to other students.

However, Twitter became more than just a place to go when Google had failed me. While I vented my frustrations and tweet-whined about how much I had left to study, I commiserated with other students feeling just the same way. Students from across the country whom I had never even met offered kind words of encouragement, and I was happy to do the same in return. We’d offer study tips and advice to one another. The night before my test, physicians and fellow students alike were wishing me good luck. And when I logged on for the first time, brain-dead, after my exam, I was greeted with a slew of congratulatory tweets. The support I received from my Twitter friends—most of them perfect strangers—made me smile every time.

A prominent topic of discussion right now is the use of social media in medical education. That is a huge subject for another post (or many) entirely. Judging from my experiences this summer, though, Twitter and other social media channels may have an extremely valuable role in medical education and collaborative learning. Social media allows medical students to connect both intellectually and emotionally. Through Twitter, I was able to engage in active learning, reinforce my knowledge, and gain insights from others during my preparation for Step 1. And I must say, it was way more fun than reading First Aid and BRS Pathology.

About the author:

Brittany Chan is a third-year medical student at the Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center. In 2011, she received her MBA in Health Organization Management from the Texas Tech Rawls College of Business as part of the MD/MBA dual degree program. Originally from the Houston area, she graduated summa cum laude with degrees in psychology and general studies from Texas Tech University in 2009. In addition to blogging, Brittany enjoys reading, crafts, and spending time with family and friends.

1 comment:

  1. Actually, my memory is not of the same exam yours was! My memory is that of a paper-based exam. Two days. 4 two hour sessions each day. ALL of our class there at the same time...High stress!!

    Congratulations on getting through, have a great summer. Thanks for the post! I'll definitely be keeping yours as an example...