Doctor of Physical Therapy program explored using iPads in clinical teaching

Led by Dr. Kyle Covington, over 60 Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) students used iPads during a two-week clinical experience. Groups of three or four students were issued one iPad loaded with medical and research apps to use during patient care and team activities.

The DPT faculty were interested to learn how this technology might enhance student learning in the clinical setting and how it may be used in a collaborative team-model of education. Students were instructed to share the use of the iPad as well as collaborate with their clinical instructor to use the technology to investigate clinical information and complete assignments.

After the exploratory program Dr. Covington conducted a survey, to which all 63 students responded (35 reporting on in-patient, and 28 reporting on out-patient clinical experiences).

Survey results indicated that overall student satisfaction was high related to the ease of use of the device.

Some of the responses to the survey question “What apps did you find most useful to aid your experience in [this program]”:

  • Those in pediatric settings reported liking apps appropriate for the childrens’ cognitive level, such as Sesame Street ABC apps. One reported: “Elmo sing along [keeps] the children entertained and focused during treatment.”
  • Dragon Medical Search
  • WebMD (many students mentioned this app)
  • Human Atlas
  • MedCalc
  • Medical encyclopedias
  • MedAbbreviations
  • Wikipedia
  • Certain medical drug apps

Many students said they just used the internet for searching medical terms and abbreviations. It was much easier to search online.

A few who didn’t use the iPad or didn’t explore some apps responded:

“I never touched the iPad. We were not allowed to bring it into patient rooms in our setting, for cleanliness reasons.”

“I/we were not willing to pay for the apps.”

Dr. Covington commented:

“Survey results indicated that overall student satisfaction was high related to the ease of use of the device. However results were not as positive when we examined how well the iPads were integrated into clinical education and practice. The majority of students felt that the devices did not facilitate better communication amongst the team members or with patients. In addition they did not feel the iPads facilitated more efficient use of time or resources in the clinical experience.”

Factors that may have influenced this outcome may be that the iPad was only loaded with free apps. More costly applications specifically targeted to the educational level and clinic needs of the students may have better facilitated learning. Some students indicated that their ability to use the iPads was limited by the infrastructure of the clinical site they were assigned to. These factors were out of the control of this pilot study.”

Dr. Covington is willing to share his survey results to those who are interested.