iPad Use in Medical School: Should You Get an iPad Pocket for Your White Coat?

By Walter Wiggins

A few months back, Vamsi and Jaysson posted a great article on iPad use in the hospital. However, their focus was on the use of iPads during residency. While they hit on some great points about order entry and care coordination, we’ll go over concerns specific to med students in this post.

At this point in time, only a few schools are taking major steps to integrate iPad use into their curricula. However, with the rising prevalence of e-textbooks and iPad-friendly electronic medical records (EMR) systems, students at many schools may benefit from using an iPad as an educational supplement in the classroom and on the wards.

For preclinical students (1st and 2nd year med students, at most schools), the best use will be to supplement your classroom education with note-taking apps such as Notability (used to mark-up PowerPoint presentations or take lecture notes), organizational apps like Evernote (for keeping track of tasks and articles), and e-textbooks. Some e-books are available through iBooks, while others exist in app format – available through the App Store. As you get closer to Step 1, you might find that question bank apps allow you to fit in a few more practice questions in those moments of downtime scattered throughout the day.

Finally, all of the items mentioned above apply to 3rd and 4th years. It’s particularly useful to have an iPad on the wards when you’re the low man or woman on the totem pole and there’s a paucity of computers. I use mine to check up on my patients’ results and orders, as well as to write H&Ps and progress notes. My iPad has supplanted the need for a backpack (most of the time) as I no longer have to carry a laptop and several review books with me. I’ve got review books, practice questions, and medical reference apps all at the tap of a finger.

So, if you’re going to use an iPad on the wards, should you get an iPad pocket sewn into your white coat? Fortunately, my white coat has pockets on the outside that are big enough to hold an iPad. That said, if I didn’t have a pocket available to me already, I would definitely take my coat to the tailor and get one sewn in on the inside. It’s a lot easier than having to keep up with a bag during the day and fumbling through it every time you want to pull your iPad out. However, if you plan to use a Bluetooth keyboard or some other attachment with your iPad, you may want to consider simply going with a bag.

Bottom line, I whole-heartedly recommend iPad use in the classroom and on the wards and, furthermore, I recommend getting a iPad-friendly pocket for your white coat.

Let us know how you use an iPad in the comments below. If you have any tips or apps you can’t live without, share them.

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