Intended for healthcare professionals

Rapid response to:

Editorials Christmas 2010: Editorial

Strategies for coping with information overload

BMJ 2010; 341 doi: (Published 15 December 2010) Cite this as: BMJ 2010;341:c7126

Rapid Response:

Dealing with the information overload: what about medical students?

Access to medical information is becoming more and more easy. This has
resulted in an incomparable abundance of medical information. This
situation, although it seems perfect, does not facilitate the life of the
student. The student now faces an information overload.

The aim of our study was to evaluate the information overload in 5th year
medical students, the degree of stress it causes and the means used by
students to deal with this overload.

Materials and methods: We conducted a self-study questionnairy administered
to 5th year medical students in Marrakech school of medicine. The
questionnaire consisted of 8 items.

Results: 100 students have participated freely in the study. 30% were male. 91% of our students think that medical education is overloaded
and they gave an average note of 3.77 / 5 (? 1.40) to this overload. The
stress caused was estimated to 8.68 / 10 (? 2.45).
To deal with this overload students use summaries, deadlocks,
prioritization of information and collective learning. Algorithms and
mnemonics are used by less than 20% of students. 70% of the interviewed
students often feel overcome by the amount of medical information being

Discussion: The student today does not only work so as to learn what their
teachers give. It also requests criticize, analyze, manage, expand, and to
judge. Many difficult skills in the eyes of the student, which is then
torn between different medical information which he access and are often
contradictory or at least non-concordant. To cope, the student adopts
several techniques of learning. Transmitted from generation to
generation of students, some of these techniques have proved their effectiveness.

Conclusion: The new reforms of medical education should consider the
concept of overload. Education should then be focused not on the
information itself but on knowledge acquisition techniques and develop the
ability to synthesize and criticise in the student.

Competing interests: No competing interests

29 March 2011
Saad Lahmiti
N. Mansouri-Hattab
Oral maxillo-facial surgery unit. Mohammed VI University Hospital. Marrakech. Cadi Ayyad University