Bring Your Own Teacher

Poor med student stood at attention for a three-hour case that turned into five – one of those challenging ones where you and the resident are problem solving and ignoring the student the whole time. At the end, I thanked her for her patience and apologized for teaching so little. Given that it was laparoscopic and a struggle, I’m sure she had no idea what she was looking at for the duration, except when the spleen slipped into view. The only thing I’m certain she learned is she does not wish a career in surgery.

We should be maximizing learning opportunities, not wasting the precious time of our students. From now on, I’m going to encourage med students scrubbing with me to bring their mobile devices. Limiting ourselves to the master-apprentice teaching dynamic of the operating room is silly, given the resources available on the half dozen smartphones in the room. The med student could be comparing diagrammed anatomy to living anatomy, looking up the natural history of diverticulitis, or Facebook crowd-sourcing my case in progress. Or DJ-ing the iTunes.

After they’ve scrubbed a few cases, I doubt most med students learn anything in the operating room of use to their future functions as pediatricians or oncologists. Halfway through their rotation, I ask them if scrubbing a fifth cholecystectomy is as valuable to them as two hours of studying SHELF questions, and I give them the option. Rarely are they honest.

Chris Porter MD



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