Hope you are all doing well. I have been very busy for a while and not had a chance to write. I apologize. But I enjoy this blog very much, so I figure it is time to get back at it.
I wanted to touch briefly on teaching. Working as a doctor has several different components. The most obvious one, which I, and most doctors, enjoy the most, is direct patient care. It is a fascinating experience to meet so many different individuals and learn something about their life. Hearing the experience of others exposes me secondhand to many lifetimes of experience I would not have otherwise. This is the best part of the job. Administrative work is probably the worst. There is so much stupid paperwork in this job. I spend hours each week doing forms, filling in notes, etc. if I don’t do the form correctly guess what? The patient doesn’t get the test they need or the drug covered. Each form is brief, only a minute or two, but there are so many, it feels like death by 1000 cuts!
Other parts of the job include advocating for patients, ongoing learning, research and teaching. Advocacy takes many forms, whether it is working for the media or doing administrative work at the hospital to improve patient care. Hospital meetings can be boring, but seeing the results is usually very gratifying. Ongoing learning is great – the challenge to stay on top of your field is very intellectually stimulating. Research is something I don’t do much of myself, although I do contribute to some trials by recruiting patients. This is a lot of work and doing it can be very mundane, so it is not a key part of my own practice. Nevertheless it is a great privilege to contribute to the body of medical science.
The last is teaching. I am beginning to realize just how much I enjoy doing this. I teach very junior medical students the basics of examining patients and taking histories every year. I am affiliated with UBC for this. It does not pay well but it is great to see so many of them learn the basic skills, which are a foundation for whatever area of medicine they end up pursuing. I think back to my own 14 years of schooling (4 years undergrad, 4 years medical school, 3 years internal medicine residency, and 3 years cardiology fellowship) and although I had lots of lousy teachers I also had lots of good ones who gave me a great boost in moving forward. I did electives in cardiology with excellent preceptors which really stimulated my interest in the field and lead me to where I am today.
More recently I have begun teaching more advanced trainees, primarily cardiology fellows in their last years of training before becoming a cardiologist. I have been aided by my two partners at times, which is helpful to me and also the trainee, exposing them to different perspectives and ways of doing things. I have been very surprised by how interesting I actually find reviewing cases and examining their diagnostic and therapeutic reasoning. They are well exposed to the new evidence available in cardiology, so in review with them I can see how they have integrated new data and how they have evaluated it. Also indirectly I receive the opinion of the academic cardiologists downtown who do more research than I do. We are all good cardiologists but may approach things slightly differently based on our own biases and experiences with patients. I was, I hope, good at my job when I came out from training. But I have gained from experience over the last four years. And there is no question I am better now at my job than I was four years ago.
The other thing is, although these senior trainees are very good, they are still trainees. I do have the opportunity to fine tune and correct their approach. Having suffered through the rigorous study required for the certification exam, and having the four years of experience, I am at a big advantage. I have caught things and suggested refinements that were very important to patient care. This is all normal with the learning process, and I had the same thing when I was at their stage. But it is gratifying to know that as bright as these trainees are, I can still teach them.
Anyways just wanted to give you a bit of an insight into my job and why you will sometimes see trainees working with me. It is a gratifying part of my job. I wonder if any of you have ever taught or mentored a junior colleague? Did you find it a rewarding experience? Let us know in the comments, it would be great if you could share this.