Staying current in medicine

April 13, 2021
Heidi Moawad, MD

The only certainty in medicine is that the practice of every specialty will change substantially throughout a physician’s career. 

Medicine is a constantly advancing field. And the advances have real implications and day-to-day application when it comes to patient care.

Between discoveries that uncover disease risk factors to new medication approvals to advances in therapeutic technology, the only certainty in medicine is that the practice of every specialty will change substantially throughout a physician’s career.

Many of the accepted diagnostic and treatment approaches that a doctor becomes proficient at during residency will be outdated by the time a physician reaches mid-career. So, staying updated is vital.

But it can be challenging to learn how to apply the newest modalities to deliver patient care when keeping up with a busy practice and a busy life.

There are several efficient ways to stay updated in medicine throughout your career. It may not be realistically possible to incorporate all of them but maintaining a few consistent habits can keep a physician updated throughout the years.

Conferences

Medical conferences have long been a place for doctors to learn about the latest innovations in patient care. Conferences can be time consuming but remain a valuable way for doctors to obtain concentrated exposure to emerging diagnostic and therapeutic developments in medicine.

Often, physicians who have hands-on experience will speak at medical symposia, discussing and demonstrating details to guide those who have not yet tried emerging tools in medicine.

And conferences can be a good place for physicians to share experiences with each other, gaining insights that might not be accessible in small community settings.

Courses

Hands-on training courses can offer intense instruction in learning new techniques. Some courses may be industry-sponsored, potentially raising concerns about conflict of interest. But if a physician can attend a course with an eye on refining skills, the benefits can last beyond the time when even the newly acquired skill becomes modernized.

Teaching

Medical education is often updated to reflect evolving diagnostic criteria and new treatment algorithms. Teaching medical students and extended care providers is typically reimbursed with a modest stipend, and the curriculum will include the current practice guidelines.

If you like to learn through teaching others, becoming a medical educator could be an effective way to stay updated in your field.

Clinical Trials

After a formal approval process, new treatments continue to be examined with clinical trials to determine widespread real-world efficacy.

Clinicians who participate in clinical trials are usually reimbursed for the work and receive guidance and resources for incorporating new treatments.

Joining in clinical trials can take a good deal of preparation and efforts to abide by the necessary protocols. After the initial groundwork, it can be a good way to gain experience with the latest updates in medicine, while giving patients access to therapies, they might not have otherwise been able to obtain.

Journal Review

For doctors who are interested in the knowing the meticulous details about disease, including treatments and diagnostic tools, reviewing publication submissions can be a way to stay on top of the basic science of up-and-coming innovations in medicine.

Reviewing submitted research can provide a doctor with detailed information that dives into the deep principles and fine points that guide emerging therapies.

Staying updated in medicine and knowing how to apply the updates to patient care can take time and effort. Each physician can approach the evolving field of medicine in the ways that are satisfying and suitable to their own personality and learning style.