Welcome to the Club! Well, an online journal Club

Dr Kunal Patel 18 Dec 2019

As a healthcare trainee, whether it be early in your career or later on, you are bound to be inducted into a unique club, that those outside of health are never welcome. Many of us refer to it as the Journal Club.

Sadly, there is no VIP area or happy hour, however, Journal Clubs have become part of team and clinical based practice for decades. They can benefit all those involved and have now become a key contributor to knowledge gain and critical appraisal skills. If you are not familiar with them, the basic premise is as follows. A group within a speciality unit, ward, clinic or hospital is formed i.e the ‘club’. Within this club, academic papers or findings are distributed and presented by an individual on a rotational basis. This is commonly followed up by discussion and critique.

With the internet being part of our daily lives, some of these clubs have gone online, to a mixed response with mixed success. Andrew Musits, of Brown University Warren Alpert Medical School, decided to analyse a recurring online journal club that was held on a quarterly basis to connect simulation fellows. An online conferencing system was used to provide a virtual environment where concepts from a traditional journal club can be implemented, including presentation and discussion. Sadly, to my dismay, the killer of education, powerpoint was used. Ground rules were set, and this is incredibly important when utilizing an online environment, especially as some users will not be used to the technology and how one should behave within a virtual space.

After running the club, the authors followed up on the participants, with the majority of respondents identified as simulation fellows and with a minority identified as researchers, administrators, or simulation center directors. Interestingly, the participants found the experience to be interesting and beneficial, however, barriers were noted. These include time zone differences and facilitation. To be fair, this should be expected, when working across different time zones but also when developing a new virtual space. Facilitators are needed to ensure everyone is in the room and that rules and organizational structures are followed. To be honest, time zones will always be an issue, but maybe we shouldn’t have to spread a club across different time zones. Is it really necessary?!

Nevertheless, this example is one that provides a template for others to follow. Sometimes it is easy to sit in a room in a hospital and cover papers within a club, however, as healthcare, rightly becomes more integrated within a community, the healthcare team will spread. Therefore, online journal clubs will be of benefit.