Computerized Literature Searching on a Core Internal Medicine Clerkship

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The use, acceptance, and benefits of computerized literature searching by medical students during an internal medicine clerkship were evaluated. A year‐long prospective comparison of two student groups was performed in a community‐based medical school with five clinical sites. All third‐year medical students were required to supply two nontextbook references for each assigned patient evaluation during their core medicine clerkship. All 37 students enrolled in the second and fourth quarters of the academic year (Group 1) used the computer bibliographic retrieval service BRS Colleague® through five local modern‐equipped terminals to obtain their references. The 40 students in the first and third quarters (Group 2, controls) obtained their references without doing computer searches themselves. All Group 1 students felt capable of using the system, and 96% felt the service was helpful to their clinical learning. When compared with the control group, students using the computer search spent less time looking for articles (23 min vs. 122 min) and found more useful references about therapeutics. The mean cost per student search was $10.64. These data indicate that computerized literature searching is easily learned, used, and accepted by third‐year medical students. Time is saved accessing the medical literature. Computer literature search training should be an integral part of today's medical student curriculum.



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