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Keywords:

  • teaching;
  • telemedicine

Abstract

Background

About two-thirds of medical students are distributed among the major metropolitan tertiary teaching hospitals in Queensland, while the remainder are sent to regional hospitals up to 500 km away. The aim of this study was to investigate the feasibility and effectiveness of conducting surgical tutorials via videoconferencing (VC) for medical students undertaking at remote hospitals.

Methods

Surgical tutorials were offered to final-year medical students at the Royal Children's Hospital (RCH) in Brisbane and shared by VC to students undertaking clinical placement at nine remotely located hospitals in Queensland. We have conducted a retrospective review of service activity, student satisfaction and subject scores from 2008 to 2010. The main outcome measures were VC activity, medical students' satisfaction and student exam results pre- and post-introduction of the surgical tutorial programme.

Results

Between March 2009 and November 2010, a total of 57 VC tutorials were conducted during nine rotations for a total of 669 students. Approximately, 35% of students (236) attended tutorials face-to-face at the RCH while the remainder (including those at the Mater Children's Hospital in Brisbane and eight regional sites) participated via VC. A snapshot survey to measure satisfaction of both groups of students showed that overall satisfaction was very high. A total of 299 students completed the paediatrics and child health multiple-station assessment task exam in 2008, 326 in 2009 and 382 in 2010. The pre-intervention (tutorials not delivered by VC) median scores (interquartile range) of surgical and non-surgical questions were 5 (4–6) and 23 (21–25). Post-intervention, surgical scores increased significantly to 6 (5–7) (P < 0.001), while non-surgical scores remained similar at 23 (21–25) (P = 0.64).

Conclusions

Our study demonstrates that VC is a feasible and effective method of engaging medical students regardless of their location. VC provides equitable access to medical teaching for medical students undertaking remote clinical placements.