How To Adapt Teaching Clinical Breast Exam From Onsite To Online Learning

If you’re thinking about teaching clinical breast exam onsite, do it online first! You’ll be less stressed out, you can practice at your own pace, and you can learn faster.

I would like to share a recent experience that I had with a classroom of graduate students.

My wife and I recently completed graduate school at Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine in March of this year.

In my first year of medical school, my classmates and I were assigned a rotating instructor to teach us clinical breast exam, the first module of the two-year course.

But most of our graduate studies were hands-on instead of in the classroom, so my orientation included a one-on-one training on building a digital breast examination app from scratch.

The app was designed to look like a 4×5 grid of beads, inspired by work that Dr. Sajjad Khan and others had done at the Gittings Institute, and that I was reading online.

We needed to make a digital app that appeared realistic so that students and patients could safely explore a scanner at the same time. (Dr. Khan explained that the content of the app is among several factors that may determine the method of recording an exam.)

The initial inspiration for building an app for students came when my colleagues (including Dr. Khan) and I were having a conversation at the Student Health Center about breast exams in general.

As we talked, we came up with the notion that software developers and medical students can have very similar goals; for example, to develop digital tools that make exam learning more accessible and modern while retaining the sensitivity, intimacy, and sensitivity of traditional teaching materials.

Many of us tried and failed to come up with projects that offered interactive tools that can help students prepare for their clinical exams.

Some saw teaching methods that provided an unfair advantage for some students, such as those that had doctorates in anatomy and traditional software systems.

Some developers were trying to create a better way to capture images from both inside and outside the body, using either scanners or 3D modeling. (Unfortunately, only the dentist uses both techniques very often.)

Working with technology whizzes to develop digital versions of what they had learned from their time in the hospital helped develop skills they’ll use outside of school, as they work in a clinical setting.

But many students haven’t had the training in how to analyze medical images or build apps in their normal professional lives.

We had already taught them how to see anatomy and test blood pressure. But they hadn’t taught them how to design a digital tool that could mimic an online lecture or in-person learning experience.

We were excited to use this new learning to integrate mobile apps into our schedule, which previously consisted solely of in-person lectures.

Many of our students are studying a specialty that requires them to practice and then teach in a clinical setting.

We wanted to prepare them to navigate situations both on- and off-campus, which sometimes make talking about anatomy, pathology, and virtual exams frustrating.

More and more, students are seeking the support of digital tools and technology so that they can solve these issues without having to call in sick or drop class.

We try to give a relatively large number of students “teaching notes” that outline how to approach a particular obstacle or theme. We take an approach called “small steps” to help students negotiate complicated scenarios.

To illustrate this process, we made a short video about the arrangement of the physical, digital, and oral components of an exam.

And to help make it more accessible for their peers, they taught themselves how to build it.

They also worked on customizing the design to fit their own strengths.

And when the final app was ready to roll out, they loaded it directly into our student health app.

On-Campus Students’ Tested The App

We had some initial feedback from our students. Some reported they preferred to interact with their patients and use the app manually than to use it as a laboratory tool.

But most gave it a thumbs up.

They said they wished they had such a feature before. And some suggested that they wanted to see the app in action, so they could try it for themselves.

Within a few weeks of the tool being introduced, students were sharing their app via Facebook, Twitter, and GitHub.

Since then, we’ve seen an increase in the number of students using the app as they navigate the clinical environment.

Graduate Students Still Need To Have Some Personal Training

Online app development is exciting and amazing. But we need to acknowledge that some students don’t have the same level of experience or training in programming that the people on campus have.

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