Continuing education


The midnight oil I’ll burn

The facts can make my mind churn

If I fail or pass

The test or the class

There’s always more I can learn


Synopsis:  I’m a family practitioner from Sioux City, Iowa.  In May 2010, I left my position of 23 years, and honoring my non-compete clause, traveled for a year doing locum tenens work.  In June of 2011 I joined up with the Community Health Center, which provides care for the underserved.  I’m now working part-time, which, for a doctor, means 48 hours a week.

The doctors in our clinic attend brand-new infants, and obstetricians frequently call us to be present at C-sections.  Today we did the Neonatal Resuscitation Program.

Enough of us in one place at one time justified importing the teacher with equipment and models.  In the interest of efficiency, the American Academy of Pediatrics has published a book and put the test online.  At least in theory, people read the materials, watch the DVD, and take the test at their pace and convenience. 

Two of our docs did the right thing and prepped for the course starting a month ago, then completed the exam in the week or so before the program.

The rest of us did not.  I read the first two chapters in a desultory fashion over the last month (5 twenty-four hour shifts in eight days, and the subsequent recovery put a dent in my study time), leaving 230 pages and 7 chapters till the last night.

In high school I developed the skills required to master a large amount of academic material in a short period of time, and retain the knowledge for decades.  Unfortunately, having that ability discourages me from working ahead.  I have stayed the king of the all-nighter ever since.

In my business I get a lot of night-time stress and job-related sleep deprivation, and as the years go by it takes me longer and longer to bounce back.

This morning I slept about an hour between study sessions, from 3:00AM to 4:00AM.  The experience hasn’t hit me nearly as hard as such experiences do when I’m on call.  I suspect the fact that I knew the phone wouldn’t wake me, so that I got an hour of quality sleep without vigilance interference, buffered the blow.

The instructor showed up late, and while we waited, and the doctors gathered in the conference room, we talked.

Of course we started with the call schedule and how we’re creeping to burnout.  But then we moved on to patients and attending physicians, and the knowledge started to flow. 

Colloquia and collegiality run together in medicine; in pre-med and medical school we used the buzzword peer mediated learning.  Our instructors wisely saw that we would need to learn for the rest of our careers and that other docs comprised a handy resource.  In short order I felt better about my procrastination and the amount of time I’d taken. 

The teacher arrived, showed us the equipment, had us demonstrate manual skills, then threw scenarios at us, describing newborns going bad.

We did well as a group and as individuals.  If one of us hung up on a decision point, the others helped out, and we all learned thereby.

When I started out my premedical studies, I looked ahead to eleven years of hard academics, and decided that if the end does not justify the means I had better embrace the learning process.  And that process never ends.  Every time I open a journal or listen to a disc or go to a meeting, every time I sit down to talk with my colleagues, I come away a better doctor.


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One Response to “Continuing education”

  1. AussieAlaskan Says:

    That’s a nice comment on practicing medicine – I hope and wish ,many doctors feel like you.

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