This year’s pain curriculum is all a Twitter

30 March 2012

In 2004, the University of Toronto Centre for the Study of Pain – Interfaculty Pain Curriculum(UTCSP-IPC) became a mandatory part of health science curricula. Each year, organizers have strived to take into account student feedback, addressing any issues and improving the event for the following year. Last year’s comments revealed a call for greater interaction during panel discussions. This year, that call was answered.

In March, 912 students from seven health science programs – Dentistry, Medicine, Nursing, Occupational Therapy, Pharmacy, Physical Therapy and Physician Assistant – participated in the UTCSP-IPC. With a group that size, it’s easy to understand how voices may get lost in the crowd. This year, in an attempt to give students additional opportunities to be heard, Twitter was incorporated into the 90-minute expert panel discussion.

Bloomberg Nursing’s assistant professor and IPC faculty representative Shirley Musclow, and communications assistant Sarah Gopaul partnered to introduce the new platform. In the days prior to the pain curriculum, students were informed there would be an opportunity to follow and participate in a Twitter discussion throughout the week using the hashtag #UTPain. The Bloomberg Nursing account (@UofTNursing) was utilized to initiate the conversation, making appropriate announcements and tweeting facts or misbeliefs about pain. While these served as quiet reminders the dialogue was open, the Twitter chatter was truly brought to life during the expert panel.

Fiona Campbell, expert panel chair and member of the IPC Management Committee, piloted the presentation. Three different case studies were described and students were given the chance to comment on each using microphones situated around the room or through Twitter, which was projected at the front of the room. As opioids are such a hot topic of discussion in local and national media, it was not surprising to see many students had perceptive statements to contribute to the cases presented for debate.

“The students were highly engaged and we were able to respond to tweets on stage and via Twitter through one of the participating panellists,” says Campbell. “The use of social media not only added to the richness of the discussion, but was also novel and a great deal of fun for the audience and panellists.”

Though there was some initial anxiety at the integration of social media in what could be a controversial discussion, it was received with enthusiasm and adopted quickly and professionally by many students. The event was a success. “This was the best part of Pain Week,” tweeted @riskofexposure.

“The use of Twitter contributed significantly to discussion and the overall success of the opioid panel,” added Campbell. “We certainly plan to use Twitter or other such social media to enhance our educational sessions again.”

The UTCSP-IPC is a 20-hour integrated, interdisciplinary, pain curriculum for pre-licensure health science students. It was developed to address current information, misbeliefs and gaps in pain education, and to provide students in the health professions an opportunity to learn with, from and about each other. The goal of the curriculum is to improve pain knowledge and understanding of interprofessional pain assessment and management.