Use of Free, Open Access Medical Education and Perceived Emergency Medicine Educational Needs Among Rural Physicians in Southwestern Ontario
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Free, open access medical education (FOAM) has the potential to revolutionize continuing medical education, particularly for rural physicians who practice emergency medicine (EM) as part of a generalist practice. However, there has been little study of rural physicians' educational needs since the advent of FOAM. We asked how rural physicians in Southwestern Ontario obtained their continuing EM education. We asked them to assess their perceived level of comfort in different areas of EM. To understand how FOAM resources might serve the rural EM community, we compared their responses with urban emergency physicians. Responses were collected via survey and interview. There was no significant difference between groups in reported use of FOAM resources. However, there was a significant difference between rural and urban physicians' perceived level of EM knowledge, with urban physicians reporting a higher degree of confidence for most knowledge categories, particularly those related to critical care and rare procedures. This study provides the first description of EM knowledge and FOAM resource utilization among rural physicians in Southwestern Ontario. It also highlights an area of educational need -- that is, critical care and rare procedures. Future work should address whether rural physicians are using FOAM specifically to improve their critical care and procedural knowledge. As well, because of the generalist nature of rural practice, future work should clarify whether there is an opportunity cost to rural physicians' knowledge of other clinical domains if they chose to focus more time on continuing education in critical care EM.
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