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Educational Intervention
November 1998

Use of E-mail to Teach Residents Pediatric Emergency Medicine

Author Affiliations

From the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences, Department of Pediatrics, Emergency Medicine Section, Arkansas Children's Hospital, Little Rock.

Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med. 1998;152(11):1141-1146. doi:10.1001/archpedi.152.11.1141

Objectives  To develop a computer-based teaching program using a hospital health care system to instruct pediatric and medicine-pediatric residents (MPR) in pediatric emergency medicine, and to determine residents' participation, interest, and benefit from the project over 3 years' time.

Design  Prospective, descriptive.

Setting  University-affiliated pediatric hospital.

Participants  Pediatric housestaff.

Methods  One multiple-choice question about pediatric emergency medicine was sent daily to pediatric residents and MPR via the hospital health care system's internal electronic mail (e-mail) system. Residents were asked to reply electronically with the correct answer. The next day, the correct answer, discussion, and a new question were sent to the residents via e-mail.

Main Outcome Measures  Tabulated electronic participation for 3 years; self-report surveys of participation after 1 and 3 years' participation. Pretest and posttest scores before and after 1 year of participation.

Results  From October 3, 1994, to June 14, 1995, 52 of 64 pediatric residents and MPR (81%) elected to receive the e-mail questions, but only 31 (48%) sent electronic replies. The average number of e-mail replies received per resident that year was 38 (22%) of 171 (range, 1-164 e-mail replies; median, 33). In academic years 1995-1996 and 1996-1997, although averages and ranges were similar, regular e-mail participation declined. Residents preferred to participate by reading e-mail only. Pediatric residents and MPR judged e-mail questions to be as educationally valuable or better than Grand Rounds (92%) or our Resident Lecture Series of basic pediatric topics (87%).

Conclusion  Pediatric residents and MPR do participate in a daily e-mailed question/answer format of teaching, but prefer to do so passively, by reading daily questions only, rather than actively, by sending answers to an e-mail box. This format provides medical education that is uniform, accommodates residents' varying schedules, and is a useful adjunct to other teaching methods.