Distance learning is not a new concept, but there is a tendency among the public to associate it with conventional schools: teaching AP calculus in a school without sufficient faculty, for example. In truth, distance learning can be (and is being) applied to all manner of professional instruction, especially within the healthcare industry. Hospital administrators are constantly managing the organized chaos that is a hospital’s day-to-day operation. Shift changes, nursing shortages, and long hours mean that there is not always the necessary number of medical professionals on hand to assist in instructing medical students. Traditionally, hands-on instruction is used to provide medical students with the medical knowledge they need to complete their educations. However, distance learning is increasingly playing a bigger role in the medical school classroom.
Some benefits to this practice are obvious: hospitals and medical schools can work around staff shortages by providing medical students with the opportunity to learn from medical professionals who are working in controlled conditions. This greatly reduces the travel time and cost of relocating practicing surgeons and physicians from their daily operations. Distance learning also ultimately allows for greater exposure, as modern video equipment is capable of scaling up the broadcast so that an entire lecture hall can observe certain techniques, whereas with traditional instruction the audience may be limited to the observers who can get a clear view.
Over time, distance learning may be able to radically change the way we view medical school. A large body of recordings means that a library of different techniques for a variety of procedures can be made available, giving both medical professionals and aspiring students an excellent overview of medical opinion. After the videos have been recorded, they can serve as educational tools for subsequent classes, meaning that medical schools can save both time and money unless significant changes are made to the procedure (thus necessitating a new recording).
While hands-on practice will still be essential for practicing surgeons and similar professions, distance learning ensures that the best doctors are able to communicate to the largest possible number of medical students. Depending on their terminology and requisite level of expertise, such video libraries can also serve as excellent public health messages for local communities. Medical schools are in the process of compiling online video databases to assist both curious laypersons and incoming medical students. In this manner, distance learning can help boost recruitment in critical areas of study within the healthcare industry.