PracticeUpdate: Dr. Elangovan, can you give a brief explanation of what lifelong learning means to you?
Dr. Satheesh Elangovan: It is an essential attitude that allows professionals to stay current on recent advances in their chosen field so they can provide the best care to their patients and/or enhance their research interests.
PracticeUpdate: Why is lifelong learning so important in healthcare?
Dr. Elangovan: Healthcare is evolving at an exponential rate, with clinical studies either supporting or challenging the current standard of care. Failure to keep track of these advances will easily put a clinician at risk of being outdated.
- Allows clinicians to stay up to date and provide evidence-based healthcare.
- Allows clinicians to improve their clinical outcomes, thereby remaining successful in their careers.
- Has the potential to ultimately reduce healthcare costs or avoid any unnecessary adverse effects on patients.
It is also important from a medico-legal standpoint for the healthcare team to stay current in their respective healthcare field.
PracticeUpdate: What are some specific skills that clinicians need to continually update during their careers?
Dr. Elangovan: The three most important attributes clinicians need to stay updated are discipline, curiosity, and dedication. Dedicating time for learning amid busy practice is essential and, for that, a strong time commitment is essential. In this era of information overload, busy clinicians are bombarded with clinical updates on a daily basis, be it on social or broadcast media. To be an effective lifelong learner, one should have evidence appraisal and critical thinking skill sets to carefully evaluate and apply these updates in practice.
PracticeUpdate: What are some ways that healthcare providers can make sure they are practicing lifelong learning?
Dr. Elangovan: There is no single approach. Having multiple lifelong learning tools in the armamentarium to ensure not missing out on any advances in the field while practicing evidence-based healthcare is critical. Despite these available resources, an individual's critical thinking ability comes to the forefront in order to translate new information into clinical decision–making.
Following are some strategies:
1. Practice evidence-based healthcare
- Lifelong learning and evidence-based healthcare go hand in hand. Staying curious and disciplined to acquire the best available evidence for the clinical questions that arise in day-to-day practice is one of the important opportunities for lifelong learning.
- If engaged in a group practice, take the great opportunity for discussion among peers and constantly learn from each other.
2. Subscribe to curated content
- Commit time to read, listen, or view expert handpicked content.
- Searching for literature and reading it is a major challenge for a busy clinician. The risk of missing out on a recent advancement or giving up lifelong learning due to lack of time is high. Expert curated content delivered to the inbox can facilitate access to the latest developments with minimal effort.
- Subscribe to free or paid resources, podcasts, and webinars; for example PracticeUpdate, New England Journal of Medicine Journal Watch, American College of Physicians Journal Club, and Journalfeed.org.
3. Curate yourself
- Commit the time to read and curate scientific evidence yourself.
- For example, subscribe and read select journal articles (signing up for e-table of contents alerts is a good place to start); set up email alerts (such as Google Scholar or PubMed).
4. Connect with leaders in the field
- Make an effort to periodically attend presentations and workshops at conferences.
- Actively involve yourself in professional organizations.
- Follow experts and key opinion leaders on social media.
5. Academic affiliation
- Actively engage in clinical teaching and/or research activities.
Dr. Elangovan would like to thank Dr. Michael G. Newman (Editor in Chief of the PracticeUpdate Clinical Dentistry Channel) for his review and thoughtful suggestions.