Nephrologists have been leaders in incorporating information technology in the medical educational space and leveraging social media in new and exciting ways. Online medical education in nephrology began with blogs containing the musings of a few great educators and has since blossomed into an impressive array of high-quality and engaging educational material, communities, and events (1). It has never been easier to connect with colleagues, share insights about the latest research, and disseminate educational material.
Understandably, a large majority of educational material in nephrology has been produced by and—crucially—for adult nephrologists. However, there are clear benefits in having pediatric-specific educational material. There are significant changes in kidney physiology over the course of the lifespan, with the most dramatic changes occurring during childhood. There are important differences in pediatric kidney disease epidemiology, presentation, and progression; the etiologies and impacts of comorbidities; and in prescribing practices. These variations make it difficult for pediatric specialists to use much of the existing online educational content.
The pediatric nephrology community is relatively small, with approximately 1100 board-certified pediatric nephrologists in the United States, and it is facing a significant workforce shortage. Creating high-quality online educational content can be time consuming, technically difficult, and costly and may not be weighed as heavily in promotional criteria as more traditional educational materials, such as reviews or book chapters. For a heavily academic specialty facing growing clinical needs, research demands, and ever-tighter budgets, this has not proven to be a recipe for spurring innovation in education. With perceived complexity and inadequate didactics being a barrier to trainee interest in the field, there is a risk that these problems will only continue to compound.
High-quality, online, pediatric nephrology educational content certainly exists but often is confined to the literature, is siloed away in expensive textbooks, requires a login or even a paid subscription, is commingled with adult nephrology content, or is simply hard to find unless one knows where to look. Despite these challenges, there have been some positive developments. The Kidney Chronicles: A Pediatric Nephrology Podcast, produced and hosted by Dr. Emily Zangla, a fellow at the University of Minnesota (Minneapolis), has breathed some life into the pediatric nephrology FOAMed space with expert interviews on a range of interesting and important topics. The American Society of Pediatric Nephrology (ASPN) has made some inroads in recent years, hosting regular pathology and radiology webinars, small group sessions, and seminars for its members. It has also created an interest group focusing on free open-access medical education (ASPNFOAM), which develops and shares “tweetorials” and “infographics.” The Neonatal Kidney Collaborative has organized a collection of educational material regarding acute kidney injury and kidney replacement therapy in neonates. For the most part, though, the impetus has been on individuals to identify, appraise, and organize pediatrics-relevant content. These barriers limit the potential audience and frustrate users and creators.
To address these concerns, we created kidney.wiki, a new home for pediatric nephrology education and the winner of the ASN 2022 Innovations in Kidney Education Contest. This website, which is free and open to anyone, is custom built from the ground up to serve the needs of learners and practitioners of pediatric nephrology. It contains easy-to-use calculators as well as enduring educational modules that are designed to be read and understood quickly at the point of care.
The site also acts as an educational platform of sorts: There is a centralized repository—dubbed the Kidney Education Network—that provides links and descriptions for popular nephrology educational sites. The top of each page contains links to relevant guidelines, review articles, podcasts, videos, note templates, patient information, and more, and users can effortlessly share additional educational content as it is created and discovered. Making it easier to share and access resources will provide a better user experience and promote the work of creators, encouraging the production of more high-quality educational material.
Pediatric nephrology has many accomplished educators and a very enthusiastic and supportive community (Table 1). By working together, we can continue to create tools and educational resources that will help us keep up with a burgeoning academic literature, do our jobs more efficiently, teach more effectively, and promote our important field.
Free, open access educational resources in pediatric nephrology
Colbert GB, et al. The social media revolution in nephrology education. Kidney Int Rep 2018; 3:519–529. doi: 10.1016/j.ekir.2018.02.003