How to Implement Scrum for Medical Students?

Last post 10:25 pm March 24, 2022
by Ian Mitchell
9 replies
11:30 am January 22, 2020

I am recently certified in PSM.  In the education system, medical students have lot to cover in terms of syllabus, short of time, mostly in stressful situation.  Looking to help such medical students with Scrum.  Any idea is appreciated.

04:52 pm January 22, 2020

Scrum, and the agile methods more broadly, are not about doing a lot of work in a short amount of time in a stressful situation. It's about responding to change in a highly uncertain environment. Is there a lot of uncertainty? Are you trying to discover and learn more about the environment or the work that is before you? Or is the scope of the work pretty clear and well-defined?

04:18 am January 23, 2020

The work is clearly defined, so is the expected timeline.  This is like set of backlog items in a product backlog with the effort estimated.  But, the definition of the competencies are at a very high level, this brings in uncertainity and the situation is complex as always in medical field.

10:53 am January 23, 2020

The work is clearly defined, so is the expected timeline

Sounds like traditional "waterfall" project management to me

if the timeline is fixed and also the amount of work, how would you envision Scrum will help out?

11:02 am January 23, 2020

Is either the work, or the timeline negotiable, as more is learned?

For example, if these students are expect to complete a particular project, are they able to still be successful by focusing on the most valuable parts of that project, and descoping aspects that require a high time investment for very little delivered value?

04:37 pm January 23, 2020

I am inclined to suggest you look at multiple ways to address the query on hand. I am also inclined to mention that the work (the scope) and the timeline are NOT clearly defined but are only time-boxed. That does not necessarily mean that waterfall may be the approach to deal with the issue on hand. 

I started my career in the medical sciences/ biological sciences field, I observed that the majority of the advice that was given to us was in favor of the waterfall PM. However, it was clear that even on day to day basis, there were impediments that could not have been identified by any risk management, analytics, or any other technique for that matter if the waterfall approach was used. 

I will still advocate Scrum with Kanban having used it for an extended time. For the groups, I will advise Scrum with Kanban so that teams can explore multiple areas at the same time and collaborate, and at the end of every time-box sprint, they can release a monogram. The monogram/summary is the increment and as the team covers more ground they will have a valuable document, especially for revisions.

If it's a single person, it is obviously not Scrum. 

08:49 pm January 23, 2020

I know a number of people in the medical field through my wife who is that field. In discussions I've had with them Scrum would have limited use there.  But this is more about a university setting than medical.  What you are looking for is something that can help a student with high demands on time be better organized.  For that I would not suggest Scrum because the complexity of the work is not real volatile. 

Kanban might help but even then not completely sure.  Since, in a very simplified view, it is focused on getting a list of things from "need to do" to "done" by limiting the things you work on at any one time, there is some potential.  The concept would be useful to them to learn but not sure if the full practices are appropriate since university work is usually individual and not team based. 

I applaud your radical thinking on this and wish I had something more encouraging but I think Scrum is probably not a good fit for your university scenario.

07:51 pm October 1, 2021

Hi Suresh,

Just came across your post.

There would be major benefits of a small group of students (say, 3-5) who have the same classes in working together in a Scrum fashion... they could divide up the work (say, producing or finding condensed notes), help each other where they're struggling, and hold each other accountable.

(You know, like Scrum teams do.)

As I understand it (probably poorly), the major constraint / obstacle is that med students HAVE TO get a certain amount of work done each week to keep up. Falling behind, then cramming to catch up, is one of those things that works for pre-meds (not that it's a great strategy even then) but is a terrible idea in med school. The pace and volume are too high.

But we know that keeping up with that challenging pace, weekly, is possible because many students figure out how to do it. And many more figure it out with help.

(Think of it as process improvement.)

Interesting idea.


10:40 am March 24, 2022

Research exist that shows that teaching in a scrum form significantly enhances study results, particularly in “context based learning”. I have indeed seen a thesis that was exactly about doing this in the medical field. Have a look at

it has also been done in high school, particularly in chemistry education. Examples exist from my home country, the Netherlands. I am researching and practicing it myself as well. That is how I found the literature that supports this.

10:25 pm March 24, 2022

My advice is to start with a clear idea of what the product is, how value is determined, and who might reasonably account for its maximization. Then decide if the volatility is such that an empirical approach is needed.