I’m a klutz. Always have been. Probably always will be. I blame my clumsiness on the fact that I didn’t crawl. Apparently I was sitting around one day and toddling on two feet the next. Whatever the cause, it’s a well-tested fact that I’m not good on icy footpaths. Various parts of my anatomy have gotten up close and personal with frozen ground on many an occasion. Not usually an issue for a born-and-bred Australian, except when said Australian goes to visit her Canadian family during the northern winter.
During one such visit, I found myself unceremoniously plopped onto slick ice while my two-year-old niece frolicked around me with sure-footed abandon. I thought, “There has to be an easier way.” As freezing water seeped through my jeans, providing a useful cold pack for my screaming coccyx, my memory was jogged.
I recalled that a lateral-thinking group of New Zealand researchers had won the Ignoble Prize for Physics for demonstrating that wearing socks on the outsides of shoes reduces the incidence of falls on icy footpaths. To the amusement of my niece, I tried out the theory for myself on the walk home. I don’t know if I had a more secure foothold or not, but I did manage to get blisters from wearing sneakers without socks.
I love socks. They cover my large, ungainly clod-hoppers and keep my toes toasty warm almost all year round. You know the song ‘You can leave your hat on.’? Well for me, it is more a case of ‘You can leave your socks on, especially in winter. There’s nothing unromantic about that… is there?
I’m not, however, as attached to my socks as a patient I once treated. As an intern doing a psychiatry rotation, one of my tasks was to do physical examinations on all admissions. Being a dot-the-i’s kinda girl, when an old homeless man declined to remove his socks so that I could examine his feet, I didn’t let it slide.
“I haven’t taken off my socks for thirty years,” he pronounced.
“It can’t be that long. Your socks aren’t thirty years old. In fact, they look quite new,” I countered.
“When the old ones wear out, I just slip a new pair over the top.”
I didn’t believe him. From his odour, I would have believed that he hadn’t showered in thirty years, but the sock story didn’t add up.
He eventually agreed to let me take them off. The top two sock layers weren’t a problem but then I ran into trouble. Black remains of what used to be socks clung firmly to his feet, and my gentle attempts at their removal resulted in screams of agony. I tried soaking his feet. Still no luck. His skin had grown up into the fibres, and it was impossible to extract the old sock remnants without ripping off skin.
In retrospect I probably should have left the old man alone, but instead got the psych registrar to have a peek, who then involved the emergency registrar, who called the surgeon and soon enough the patient and his socks were off to theatre.
The ‘surgical removal of socks’ was not a commonly performed procedure, and it provided much staff amusement. It wasn’t so funny for Mr. Sock Man, who required several skin grafts!
From my perspective here in Canada, while I thoroughly commend the Kiwis for their ground-breaking sock research, I think I’ll stick to the more traditional socks-in-shoes approach, change my socks regularly and work a bit on my coordination skills.
PHYSICS PRIZE: Lianne Parkin, Sheila Williams, and Patricia Priest of the University of Otago, New Zealand, for demonstrating that, on icy footpaths in wintertime, people slip and fall less often if they wear socks on the outside of their shoes. "Preventing Winter Falls: A Randomised Controlled Trial of a Novel Intervention," Lianne Parkin, Sheila Williams, and Patricia Priest, New Zealand Medical Journal. vol. 122, no, 1298, July 3, 2009, pp. 31-8.
(This blog post has been adapted from a column first published in Australian Doctor http://www.australiandoctor.com.au/articles/58/0c06f058.asp)
Dr Genevieve Yates is an Australian GP, medical educator, medico-legal presenter and writer. You can read more of her work at http://genevieveyates.com/
What is Problem Based Learning?
During my time at medical school, I enjoyed (at times) a curriculum delivered through the traditional model. As the name suggests, this is an approach experienced by the majority of doctors to date. The traditional model was first implemented by the American Medical College Association and American Academy of Medicine in 1894 (Barr, 2010) and has been used by the majority of medical schools. It traditionally consists of didactic lectures in the initial years covering the basic sciences followed by clinical years, where students learn clinical medicine while attending hospital placements.
Is It Better?
A few years after my graduation I found myself teaching at a university which had fully adopted the use of problem based learning (PBL) in the delivery of their curriculum. PBL is a philosophy of teaching that has increasingly been used in medical education over the past 40 years. It has rapidly been replaced or supplemented in medical education as opposed to the traditional model. PBL seeks to promote a more integrated and active approach to learning right from the first year with less reliance on didactic lectures.
Having been involved in these two different approaches to medical education, I was interested to explore what the evidence was for and against each. For the purposes of this blog, I have looked at four specific areas. These include student attitudes, academic achievement, the academic process of learning and clinical functioning and skills.
Student attitudes to PBL have been highly featured in studies and many show that there is a clear favourability towards this philosophy of teaching. Blumberg and Eckenfel (1988) found that students in a problem based preclinical curriculum rated this three times higher than those in the a traditional group in terms of what they expect to experience, what they would like, and what they actually experienced. Heale et al (1988) found physicians in the problem-solving sessions rated a Continuing Medical Education short course higher compared to others who attended traditional lectures and large-group sessions. Vernon and Black (1993) performed a Meta analysis on 12 studies that looked at attitudes and towards PBL and found PBL was favored in some way by all studies. PBL appears to be preferred by the majority of students at a range of academic levels. However, Trappler (2006) found that converting a conventional curriculum to a problem based learning model for part of a psychopathology course did not show complete favourability. Students preferred the conventional lectures given by experts, rather than PBL groups run by mentors and not experts. They did however show preference towards PBL small group sessions run by experts
Academic achievement is an important factor to assess. Vernon and Blake (1993) compared a number of studies and found that those, which could be compared, showed a significant trend favouring traditional teaching methods. However, it was felt this might not be reliable. When looking at the heterogeneity of the studies there was significant variation that could not be accounted for by chance alone. Interestingly, they found that there was significant geographical variation across the United States such that New Mexico showed consistently negative effects and Michigan State showed consistently positive. Other studies have shown that the traditional method may show a slightly better outcome when assessing academic achievement. Schmidt et al (1987) looked at the same progress test taken among students in six different Universities in the Netherlands and found that those taught by a traditional approach showed slightly better outcomes. Baca et al (1990) compared performances of medical students in two separate tracks, one PBL the other a traditional model. Baca et al found that PBL students scored slightly lower in the National Board of Medical Examiners (NBME) examinations. Dochy et al (2003) conducted a meta analysis comparing 43 studies and found that when considering the effect of PBL on the knowledge of students the combined effect size is slightly negative.
The academic process of learning
It is important in medical education to enable people to continue life long learning, to overcome problems and fill in knowledge gaps. Coles (1990) and Entwistle (1983) found that PBL students would place more emphasis on understanding and meaning compared to just rote learning, seen more in those taught by a traditional approach. Students on a PBL course also place more focus on using resources such as the library and online sources rather than those taught in a traditional approach (Rankin, 1992). Students taught by a traditional model place more emphasis on the resources supplied by the faculty itself. It has also been shown that students who learn through a process of problem solving, are more likely to use this spontaneously to solve new problems in the future compared with those taught in a traditional way (Bransford et al, 1989).
Clinical functioning and skills
Clinical competence is an important aspect in medical education and has been measured in studies comparing PBL and traditional methods. The traditional model focuses acquisition of clinical competence in the final years of a program with hospital placements. In a PBL course it may be more integrated early on. There are however, only a few studies that look at clinical competence gained in undergraduate PBL courses. Vernon and Blake (1993) compared some of these studies and found that students obtained better clinical functioning in a PBL setting compared to a traditional approach. This was statistically significant, however there was still significant heterogeneity amongst studies and for conclusive results to be made 110 studies would have to be compared, rather that the 16 samples they were able to use. They also found that in contrast to the NBME I giving better results in the traditional model, PBL students score slightly higher in NBME II and federation licensing examination which related more on clinical functioning than basic sciences.
On reflection, this evidence has indicated to me that PBL is a very valuable approach and it has a number of benefits. The traditional model in which I was taught has provided a good level of academic education. However, it may not have supported me as well as a PBL course in other areas of medical education such as academic process, clinical functioning and satisfaction. On reflection and current recommendations are for a hybridisation of the PBL and traditional approach to be used (Albanese, 2010) and I would support this view in light of the evidence.
Baca, E., Mennin, S. P., Kaufman, A., and Moore-West, M. A Comparison between a Problem-Based, Community Orientated track and Traditional track Within One Medical school. In Innovation in Medical Education; An Evaluation of Its Present Status. New York: Springer publishing
Barr D. (2010) Revolution or evolution? Putting the Flexner Report in context. Medical Education; 45: 17–22
Blumberg P, Eckenfels E. (1988) A comparison of student satisfaction with their preclinical environment in a traditional and a problem based curriculum. Research in Medical Education: Proceedings of the Twenty-Seventh Annual Conference, pp. 60- 65
Bransford, J. D., Franks, J. J., Vye, N. J., & Sherwood, R. D. (1989). New Approaches to Instruction: Because Wisdom Can't Be Told. In S. Vosiadou & A. Ortony (Eds.), Similarity and Analogical Reasoning (pp. 470 297). New York: Cambridge University Press.
Coles CR. (1990) Evaluating the effects curricula have on student learning: toward a more competent theory for medical education. In: Innovation in medical education: an evaluation of its present status. New York: Springer publishing; 1990;76-93.
Dochy F., Segersb M., Van den Bosscheb P., Gijbelsb D., (2003) Effects of problem-based learning: a meta-analysis. Learning and Instruction. 13:5, 533-568
Entwistle NJ, Ramsden P. Understanding student learning. London: Croom Helm; 1983
Heale J, Davis D, Norman G, Woodward C, Neufeld V, Dodd P. (1988) A randomized controlled trial assessing the impact of problem-based versus didactic teaching methods in CME. Research in Medical Education.;27:72-7.
Trappler B., (2006) Integrated problem-based learning in the neuroscience curriculum - the SUNY Downstate experience. BMC Medical Education 6: 47.
Rankin JA. Problem-based medical education: effect on library use. Bull Med Libr Assoc 1992;80:36-43.
Schmidt, H G; Dauphinee, W D; Patel, V L (1987) Comparing the effects of problem-based and conventional curricula in an international sample Journal of Medical Education. 62(4): 305-15
Vernon D. T., Blake R. L., (1993) Does Problem-based learning work? A meta-analysis of evaluated research. Academic Medicine.
It is understandable why resume writing is daunting for most students – they haven’t achieved many significant things at such young age and they have difficulties to present usual things as something extraordinary. However, you shouldn’t give up on your efforts, because you will be surprised by all things your potential employers consider valuable. All you have to do is find the right way to demonstrate your achievements and relate them to the job you are applying for.
The following tips will help you write a great resume that will represent you as an ideal candidate for every employer.
1. Start the process by listing your experiences. You cannot tackle the challenge right where it gets most difficult, so you should gradually work your way towards the precise professional language. Start with brainstorming and create a list of all experiences you consider significant. You can draw experiences from all life aspects, such as school, academic activities, internships, prior employments, community service, sports, and whatever else you consider important. Look at that list and distinguish the most motivating experiences that led you to the point where you currently are.
2. Target the resume towards the job. Sending the same generic resume to all potential employers is a common mistake students do. You should tailor a custom-written resume for each job application, representing experiences and skills that will be relevant for the position you’re applying for.
3. Present yourself as a dynamic person. Find the most active components of your experiences and present them in the resume. Focus on action verbs, because they are attention-grabbing and make powerful statements (trained, evaluated, taught, researched, organized, led, oriented, calculated, interviewed, wrote, and so on).
4. Mark the most notable elements of your experiences and use them to start your descriptions. An employer couldn’t care less about the mundane aspects of college or internships, so feel free to leave them out and highlight your persona as a professional who would be a great choice for an employee.
5. Show what you can do for the organization. Employers are only looking for candidates who can contribute towards the growth of their companies, so make sure to portray yourself as someone who can accomplish great things in the role you are applying for. You can do this by reviewing your experiences and highlighting any success you achieved, no matter how small it is.
6. Don’t forget that your most important job at the moment is being a student. While you’re a student, that’s the most important aspect of your life and you should forget to mention that you are an engaged learner in your resume. Include the high GPA and the achievements in your major as important information in your resume.
7. Describe the most important academic projects. At this stage of life, you don’t have many professional experiences to brag about, but your academic projects can also be included in your resume because they show your collaborative, critical thinking, research, writing, and presentation skills.
8. Present yourself as a leader. If you were ever engaged as a leader in a project, make sure to include the information about recruiting and organizing your peers, as well as training, leading, and motivating them.
9. Include information about community service. If all students knew that employers appreciate community service as an activity that shows that the person has matured and cares for the society, they wouldn’t underestimate it so much. Make sure to include information about your activities as a volunteer – your potential employers will definitely appreciate it.
10. Review before you submit! Your resume will require some serious reviewing before you can send it safely to employers. This isn’t the place where you can allow spelling and grammatical errors to slip through. The best advice would be to hire a professional editor to bring this important document to perfection.
One of the most important things to remember is that writing a great resume requires a lot of time and devotion. Make sure to follow the above-listed steps, and you will make the entire process less daunting.