Evaluating the Use of Twitter to Enhance the Educational Experience of a Medical School Surgery Clerkship

J Surg Educ. 2016 Jan-Feb;73(1):73-8. doi: 10.1016/j.jsurg.2015.08.005. Epub 2015 Sep 26.


Objective: Although it has been suggested that social-networking services such as Twitter could be used as a tool for medical education, few studies have evaluated its use in this setting. We sought to evaluate the use of Twitter as a novel educational tool in a medical school surgery clerkship. We hypothesized that Twitter can enhance the educational experience of clerkship students.

Design: We performed a prospective observational study. We created a new Twitter account, and delivered approximately 3 tweets per day consisting of succinct, objective surgical facts. Students were administered pre- and postclerkship surveys, and aggregate test scores were obtained for participating students and historical controls.

Setting: Required third-year medical school surgery clerkship at the University of Michigan large tertiary-care academic hospital.

Participants: Third-year medical students.

Results: The survey response rate was 94%. Preclerkship surveys revealed that most (87%) students have smartphones, and are familiar with Twitter (80% have used before). Following completion of the clerkship, most students (73%) reported using the Twitter tool, and 20% used it frequently. Overall, 59% believed it positively influenced their educational experience and very few believed it had a negative influence (2%). However, many (53%) did not believe it influenced their clerkship engagement. Aggregate mean National Board of Medical Examiners Shelf Examination scores were not significantly different in an analysis of medical student classes completing the clerkship before or after the Twitter tool (p = 0.37).

Conclusions: Most of today's learners are familiar with social media, and own the technology necessary to implement novel educational tools in this platform. Applications such as Twitter can be facile educational tools to supplement and enhance the experience of students on a medical school clerkship.

Keywords: Medical Knowledge; Practice-Based Learning and Improvement; Twitter; medical school curriculum; social media; surgery clerkship; survey data.

Publication types

  • Observational Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Clinical Clerkship*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Prospective Studies
  • Schools, Medical
  • Social Media / statistics & numerical data*
  • Specialties, Surgical / education*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires