A Novel Online Didactic Curriculum Helps Improve Knowledge Acquisition Among Non–Emergency Medicine Rotating Residents


  • Presented at the American College of Emergency Physicians Scientific Assembly, Boston, MA, October 2009.

  • Supported by the Emergency Medicine Foundation Resident Research Grant 2008–2009 (JBB) and NHLBI 5K23HL077404-05 (DMC).

  • There are no conflicts of interest to report, financial or otherwise.

  • Supervising Editor: Eddy Lang, MD.

Address for correspondence and reprints: Amer Z. Aldeen, MD; e-mail: ameraldeen@gmail.com.


ACADEMIC EMERGENCY MEDICINE 2011; 18:53–59 © 2011 by the Society for Academic Emergency Medicine


Objectives:  Rotating residents represent a significant proportion of housestaff in academic emergency departments (EDs), yet they rarely receive targeted didactic education during their emergency medicine (EM) rotations. The goals of this study were: 1) to determine the effectiveness of an online didactic curriculum in improving EM knowledge among rotating residents and 2) to assess rotating resident satisfaction with this curriculum.

Methods:  The authors created an online lecture series of six EM subject areas targeted to rotating residents called the Northwestern University Rotating Resident Curriculum (NURRC). All rotating residents at the study site were eligible, written consent was obtained, and the study was approved by the institutional review board. Consenting participants were pretested with a 42-question multiple-choice examination and then randomized to two groups: one with access to the NURRC during the first 2 weeks of the rotation (experimental) and one without (control). Halfway through the rotation, all participants were posttested with a different multiple-choice examination, and the controls were then granted NURRC access. The primary outcome was the difference between pretest and posttest scores (score delta). The t-test was used to compare mean scores, and a linear regression model was used to determine the association of NURRC access on score delta after adjustment for pretest type and resident type. A postintervention survey was administered at the end of the rotation to assess satisfaction with the NURRC and collect suggestions for improvement.

Results:  Fifty-four rotating residents were enrolled: 29 in the experimental group and 25 in the control group. There was no significant difference in pretest scores between the two groups. Mean score delta was 17.3% in the experimental group and 1.6% in the control group, an absolute difference of 15.7% (95% confidence interval [CI] = 10% to 22%). After adjustment for resident type and pretest type, the only variable positively associated with the primary outcome was NURRC access. Third-year and preliminary-year internal medicine (IM) residents demonstrated the greatest absolute improvement in score delta when granted NURRC access. Eighty percent of the participants responded to the satisfaction survey. Over 80% of the survey respondents approved of each component lecture and of the NURRC overall.

Conclusions:  After exposure to an online didactic curriculum, rotating residents demonstrated a significant increase in EM knowledge and reported a high level of satisfaction with the didactic program.