How to teach medical residents: 21st century strategies

Today's residents are learning in completely new ways. These pointers can help you keep up.

Amol Shrikhande, MD
Amol Shrikhande, MD
8th Jul 2021 • 4m read

As a passionate medical educator, you remember the days when a lot of educators didn’t come across as particularly passionate. You still recall those endless lectures, staring at the clock and swearing to yourself that the minute hand wasn’t moving. You would zone out, promising yourself to read the 500-page textbook instead. Of course, today’s learners have different expectations, and rightfully so. The way you learned isn’t going to cut it. You need a modern strategy on how to teach medical residents and, like everything else these days, you need it fast.


Unfortunately, as you look to modernize your approach to medical education, you likely have a few roadblocks in your way. You’re probably expected to manage a high patient load and educate your residents at the same time. And then there’s the electronic medical record. Yes, it’s good, but it definitely slows you down. Time, which was never in abundance, is truly at a premium.

Add to this picture the fact that you rely on others to help with the educational process. While your colleagues are excellent, they’re just as busy as you are. Some aren’t natural teachers. Some just aren’t that into teaching. The collective result may not be up to your standard.

Finally, you have to navigate all the latest technology. It has completely changed the world of education, and the demands keep getting bigger. A one-hour lecture? Good luck with that. Now the assumption is that you’ll have a series of short, engaging videos that can be watched whenever and wherever. Oh, and by the way, the information has to be totally up to date.


As you decipher how to teach medical residents effectively, you need tools that can overcome these barriers. Stated another way, you need tools that can make your job as an educator easier. In an ideal world, you would have more time, access to great teachers, and access to the latest technology. Any cost should be more than compensated by the value delivered. In other words, you need a proven online learning platform.

Of course, navigating the world of online education provides yet another challenge. The options are numerous, and everyone says their platform is the greatest. To make your life a little easier, here are a few questions you should ask yourself to help you find the greatest value.

Are the courses taught by experts?

It’s an obvious question but one worth asking. If the EKG course is taught by a cardiologist, the ventilator course by an intensivist, and the electrolyte course by a nephrologist, you’re on the right track. Of course, just because someone has the proper label, that doesn’t always translate into great teaching. Generalists can obviously be masterful teachers as well, which leads to the next question.

Does the learning platform have experience in education?

Formal experience in education is always a plus. Look through teacher bios on the website to get a sense of their interest in education in general. Another clue can be found in the content that the platform promotes. If you find articles about things like medical education, teaching skills, the flipped classroom, and cognitive load, you’re headed in the right direction. Material produced with this mindset is typically clear, simple, and practical. As a last point, case-based learning should be available.

Are various content formats supported?

Learners learn in different ways. While video is all the rage these days, some people still enjoy good, old-fashioned text. Ideally, both ways of delivering information should be available.

Is the platform user-friendly?

Nothing is worse than technology that’s not clean and user-friendly. You and your residents have enough on your plate. Figuring out how to use a platform should not take up too much of your time. Make sure that multiple devices and various web browsers are supported. And ensure that technical support is readily available.

Is the platform effective?

An easy way to answer this question is by looking for testimonials. Of course, the ones on the website will all be good. As such, make sure to check out reviews on third-party sites like Trustpilot. Independent blogs can also be helpful in this regard, but keep in mind that if they are affiliated in any way with the platform, their reviews will be skewed toward the positive. Finally, platforms that have been recognized by large medical associations are generally more likely to have proven their worth.

Is CME available?

Medical residents may not need CME credits while training, but that changes quickly after training, and they’ll thank you for having the option available. Of course, if you use the platform for your own learning, CME is a distinct bonus.

If you’ve answered yes to all of these questions, then you just have one last hurdle to clear before choosing an online learning platform—pricing. If pricing for group plans is negotiable, then you may have cracked the code on how to teach medical residents in the 21st century. You may have also found your ticket to exactly what you deserve—more time and happy trainees.

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