With the advent of smartphones and good Internet connectivity, a lot is changing about how medical students study medicine in Nigeria.
In Nigeria, students in inadequately funded medical education programs spend long hours, day and night, in the clinic. They also know the big medical textbooks such as Gray’s Anatomy, Robbins & Cotran Pathologic Basis of Disease, Stedman’s Medical Dictionary, and several others. Some of these publications are very heavy and a student cannot comfortably carry them in regular school bags. Reading such publications may only be possible when students get back to their hostels. But with the advent of smartphones and good Internet connectivity, a lot is changing about how medical students study medicine in Nigeria.
Gadgets to the Rescue
Ojo Victoria is a final year medical student at the College of Health Sciences, Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife in the southwest region of Nigeria. She said she decided to acquire a Samsung tablet device in order to maximize time.
Before I got the tab, I had to wait 'til I got home before I could read. This became even more serious during strenuous clinical postings. But with my tab, I can read even during posting since my textbooks are now on the gadget. They are mobile and are now easily accessible.
Some medical students who spoke to nuviun about reading on smartphones compared to textbooks noted that reading on digital devices was faster and kept them more alert.
This is not surprising because we can check so many things at the same time. That way we get better understanding of the topic, Ojo said.
Endorsed by Teachers
Ojo also revealed that lecturers in medical schools are encouraging their students to acquire tablets and smartphones because they are aware of the importance and the relative ease with which their students will be able to understand what they are being taught.
Our teachers come with their tablets and they encourage the ones among us who don’t have tablets to get theirs,” she said. “My supervisor didn’t know I had a tab when he instructed me to get one and to use it to take pictures of a case note for my case report – something that would have taken hours to complete but was completed within few seconds.
In addition, medical students are organized into groups and asked to go online and use their mobile devices to read about clinical topics that are subsequently presented to other members of the class.
They also participate in referral services.
We can help patients to get the addresses of places where they could get diagnostic investigations that are not immediately available at our teaching hospital. We can use Google search to get addresses of laboratories and diagnostic centers that carry out specific desired products in near and distant cities such as Lagos.
Impact on Academic Performance
While Ojo admitted she had not sat down to compare her academic performance with and without the tab, she told nuviun that using the electronic gadget has made reading much easier for her.
I am getting more understanding, I have fewer things to check up when I get back to my room and it is contributing immensely to my performance, especially my presentations, she said.
The Game Changer
Many medical students in Nigeria – and by extension other parts of Africa – are using technology through tablets and other high-end smartphones to ease reading, maximize time, and access the latest information.
I have all my class notes in soft copies. On my tab I have all my textbooks, medical pictures, lecture videos, past questions – everything. We are also given access to our lecturers’ PowerPoint presentations and we download more from the Internet in addition to what we collect from our senior colleagues, especially those that are being passed from generation to generation, Ojo said.
Prior to the evolution of ubiquitous smartphone technology, the high cost of textbooks made medical education beyond the reach of many Africans that desired to be doctors. But with smartphones that can accept and allow users to view various forms of files, Dr. Bayo Adewole, a general practitioner, said the cost of medical education is no longer hiked due to increasing book costs.
Furthermore, he said the devices enable medical students to be able to access the latest medical information in the world with the click of few buttons, exposing them to what is being taught in medical colleges outside the country.
Some years ago, medical students were complaining they couldn’t access the latest books, some of which are very expensive. But now, they can get all the information in the medical world for free – since medical schools here offer students free access to the world’s largest collection of medical publications, and the students are using flash drives and other means of wired and wireless connectivity to share and transfer files.
According to him, the burden now is not that of inaccessibility to medical publications, but the ability of present day medical students to read all that is now within their reach.