Listen Up! Podcasts as an Innovative Educational Resource

You have just finished a tough day on the cardiology consult service. You walk through your front door, exhausted, only to be greeted by a sink full of dishes, laundry to fold and missed phone calls from loved ones to return. As you finally settle in to get some sleep, you catch a glimpse of your cardiology textbook and an untouched pile of journal issues on your nightstand. A familiar sense of guilt sinks in – when will you find the time and energy to keep up with your reading?

If this scenario sounds familiar, you are not alone. Many Fellows in Training (FITs) struggle to keep up with the literature in the midst of clinical responsibilities and you may be surprised to learn that this is a challenge our faculty mentors face, as well. Thankfully, information is now more accessible than ever in many novel formats. In this article, I will be focusing on podcasts; I want to share the ways that podcasts have changed my approach to learning, and make a case for why and how you should consider incorporating them into your daily routine.

Why podcasts and why now?
There has been a rapid growth in podcasts over the past decade, with one American Medical Association article stating that almost a quarter of Americans listen to at least one podcast per month. This burgeoning interest in podcasts has extended to the medical field as well, initially gaining traction in the areas of emergency medicine and critical care and more recently expanding to internal medicine and cardiology. As a result, podcasts have developed into a fantastic way for both fellows and faculty to stay up to date. 

What are some examples of cardiology podcasts I should listen to?
Recognizing the growing interest in podcasts, several high-impact cardiology journals now produce podcasts to summarize the content of each issue. The ACC itself has six (!) unique podcasts available, ranging from Eagle's Eye View, featuring weekly updates in cardiology news by Editor-in-Chief Kim A. Eagle, MD, MACC, to Practice Made Perfect by Alison L. Bailey, MD, FACC, covering critical nonclinical skills such as contract negotiation. Another great journal podcast is the American Heart Association's Circulation on the Run, a weekly summary of key articles from Circulation hosted by Carolyn Lam, MD, and W. Gregory Hundley, MD, FACC.

For those interested in using podcasts to review the fundamentals of general cardiology, two personal favorites are CardioNerds, organized and hosted by a team of residents and fellows from Johns Hopkins, and AP Cardiology, hosted by Andrew Perry, MD, a cardiology FIT at the University of Washington. Both feature interviews with a variety of academic cardiologists regarding their area of expertise in a conversational, case-based format. Hearing an expert discuss their approach to common clinical scenarios – for example, when should we hold the beta-blocker in a patient with decompensated heart failure? – is entertaining, informative and may "stick" better than reading a textbook. For pediatric cardiology FITs and those with an interest in adult congenital heart disease, PediHeart by Robert H. Pass, MD, is very popular and a great resource. Finally, if you are like me and lament the slow decay of your general internal medicine expertise, check out the stellar Core IM podcast to brush up on your knowledge base.

How should I incorporate podcasts into my daily routine?
The beauty of podcasts is that you can listen while you are doing other tasks, whereas a journal or textbook requires a concerted effort to focus on reading (if you do not believe me, try cooking while reading Braunwald's – hope you have homeowner's insurance)! Here are some ideas for how to integrate podcasts into your daily routine.

Commute – Listen to podcasts on your way to or from work. If the idea of giving up treasured time with your favorite music is too much to bear, listen to a podcast on your way to work and reserve your relaxing playlist for the commute back when you are winding down.

Exercise and Chores – When you hit the gym, bring a podcast with you! I personally enjoy listening to podcasts during a 30-minute run or bicycle session – that is enough time to listen to two podcasts or one longer podcast at 1.5x speed. It is extremely satisfying to accomplish two things that are easy to put off – exercise and staying up to date with the literature – in one short session. Similarly, next time you are washing the dishes or folding your laundry, put on a podcast in the background. You may be surprised at how much you are able to absorb while performing a repetitive chore.

Teaching and Learning – Rounds in the hospital can be a challenging place to teach your team given all of the interruptions that tend to arise. If you do not get to a key teaching point on rounds, try e-mailing your team a relevant podcast instead of a long review article and make it a point to reference it on rounds the next day. From a learning perspective, if you have just seen a patient with hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, listen to a corresponding podcast on your way home from work – it will likely be easier than mustering the energy to read the relevant textbook chapter after you get home.

While not a full replacement for reading, podcasts can be a convenient alternative method to keep up with the literature and review fundamental cardiology topics. Personally, I think of podcasts as a tool to help stave off that discouraging feeling of "always being behind" that can contribute to burnout. I hope this encourages you to give podcasts a chance, and to the skeptics: keep podcasts in mind next time you see a "JACC stack" on your coffee table that you somehow can never find time to read!

Suggested Podcast Links

  1. ACC Podcast Home
  2. Eagle's Eye View with Kim A. Eagle, MD, MACC
  3. Practice Made Perfect with Alison L. Bailey, MD, FACC
  4. Circulation on the Run with Carolyn Lam, MD, and W. Gregory Hundley, MD, FACC
  5. Cardionerds with Drs. Amit Goyal, Daniel Ambinder, Heather Kagan, and Carine Hamo
  6. AP Cardiology with Andrew Perry, MD
  7. PediHeart: Pediatric Cardiology Today with Robert H. Pass, MD
  8. Core IM with Shreya P. Trivedi, MD, and Martin Fried, MD

Cardiology Magazine Image

This article was authored by Amar Parikh, MD, cardiology Fellow in Training (FIT) at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville, TN.