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The Pod-sibility: Exploring the Powerful Role of Podcasts in Medical Education

October 30, 2023

Editor’s Note: Dr. Claire Castellano (she/her/hers) is a resident physician in pediatrics at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. In addition to her M.D., Claire has a Master’s in Public Health, focusing on global epidemiology. Claire hopes to combine her interests in medical education and global health in her career as a pediatrician. -Rachel Y. Moon, MD, Associate Editor, Digital Media, Pediatrics

In 2005, a word was coined to describe a new radio-esque media shared via iPods: the podcast. Over the years, the term podcast has become part of our daily vernacular, and podcasts now cover topics from business to cooking, reaching almost 500 million people globally. But what is the role of podcasts in pediatric medical education?

Dr. Joanna Parga-Belinkie of Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia and her colleagues at 7 other institutions, in a Pediatric Perspectives entitled, “The Role of Medical Education Podcasts in Pediatrics,” which is being early released in Pediatrics this week, beautifully outline the history of podcasts within medical education, while calling our attention to the disturbing reality: we neglect to support an important resource that many of us rely on and use (10.1542/peds.2023-062911). They make the following points:

Podcasts are ubiquitous. Utilized by almost every specialty in medicine, podcasts have an ability to reach a number of listeners far larger than even the biggest national conference or grand rounds.

Podcasts are accessible. Data show that upwards of 80% of residents report listening to podcasts each month, but residents are not the only ones. Podcasts reach much of the healthcare team, from students to attendings, advanced practice providers, and pharmacists.

Podcasts are convenient. As a trainee, I am constantly juggling work, learning, and everyday living. I have found podcasts a wonderful way to navigate this reality, listening to a 20-minute podcast summarizing bilirubin guidelines on an evening walk or run.

Podcasts are effective. Studies indicate that podcasts are “an effective form of asynchronous passive learning,” in line with the tenant of adult learning theory. Listeners report changes in their practice from listening to podcasts, with data suggesting they are not inferior to other forms of more “traditional teaching”.

Podcasts promote interconnectedness. On a global scale, podcasts offer a platform to connect people and ideas that may have otherwise never met. On a more local scale, they aid in “dismantle[ing] institutional silos” by offering potential for collaboration within the multi-disciplinary team required to bring them to fruition.

However, despite the longstanding use and development of podcasts, they are still viewed as a novel, esoteric form of education. Dr. Parga-Belinkie and colleagues challenge us to change this view. In particular, they encourage us to:

  • Support podcast creation and research with funding
    • Financially support individuals working on content creation
    • Fund research to gather data in understanding the extent and impact of podcasts
    • Promote education and professional training regarding media development
  • Treat digital scholarship as scholarship
    • Acknowledge digital scholarship when evaluating faculty for promotion
    • Recognize and encourage faculty to be part of digital scholarship peer review processes
  • Incorporate podcasts into medical education and adult learning schemas
    • Use research to guide implementation of podcasts into learning (i.e., opportunities for flipped classrooms and self-directed learning)
    • Allow trainees to be involved with content creation

So the next time you queue up a podcast for your run (and statistically, there will be a next time), think about the value and ease of this resource that we often take for granted. It is time that we, as a community of pediatricians, put our money where our ears are.

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