Unlimited data and medical apps help students carry on their studies when off-campus
The University of Leeds is providing its medical students with iPhones so they can access educational resources when off campus without having to lug paper-based reference books around with them.
The university is lending each one of its 520 fourth and fifth year medical students a 16GB iPhone 3GS - to ensure students are able to continue their studies remotely in the years when they typically spend the majority of their time outside university gaining experience in NHS hospitals, GP surgeries and community health clinics.
"It is vitally important that medical students continue to develop their skills and record their progress when they are in practice, as well as when they are on campus," said professor Trudie Roberts, professor of medical education at the University of Leeds, in a statement. "Mobile phone technology means that students can do this quickly and easily, wherever they happen to be working."
"By equipping our students with smartphones, we are putting a whole suite of training tools and educational resources in the palm of their hand," added professor David Cottrell, dean of the School of Medicine at the University of Leeds, in a statement.
Tools pre-loaded on the iPhones include note-taking apps for students to record interesting cases they encounter on the wards, and software to test their knowledge of procedures and protocols when out and about. The devices will also contain copies of key medical textbooks and reference works in app form, including up-to-date guidelines on administering prescription drugs.
Lists of other relevant medical apps - both free and paid-for - will be provided so students can add additional functionality to their handsets.
The university claims it is the first time a UK medical school has given undergraduates off-campus study tools in smartphone form. In addition to freeing students from the burden of book-bearing, the university is hoping the iPhone loan scheme will help them stay in touch with their course tutors and benefit from "instant, timely and detailed feedback".
The iPhones come with unlimited data to facilitate regular email contact between students and university teaching staff - with wi-fi covering student accommodation sites. Voice and SMS, however, are pay-as-you-go.
Claire Bird, a fourth year medical student at the university, said being able to access the British National Formulary on the iPhone, rather than seeking out a hard copy of the prescription manual when working in hospitals, will save "valuable time in a practice setting".
Another driver to switch from paper to mobile hardware is infection control, according to the university, which noted the iPhones can be kept clean by using antiseptic wipes.
The university said students will not be able to access confidential patient databases via their iPhones, and any case notes added to progress files will be anonymised. Phones which are reported lost or stolen will be wiped and disabled remotely, and all devices must be returned to the medical school before students graduate, it added.