What My Patients Taught Me
The short answer is everything.
I thought about my patients this weekend. As part of my CME every winter I kick off the New Year with a big on-line test, then some of the boys in charge send me a piece of paper that says what a smart doctor I am. I guess what they say is important but what my patients think matters a whole lot more to me.
After all, my patients were my real teachers. I was always okay with books and made it a habit to speed read all kinds of things, but I have a secret. The way I take those tests is I just think about people. I read the question and Ms. Smith or Jones pops into my head, and then I remember what all those fancy doctors at the medical center said about their case. After that all you gotta do is fill in the right bubbles. One year I got every single cardiology question right on the Boards, and all I did was recall what a favorite consultant said about my people in the letters he mailed me.
Sometimes they’ll reference some obscure study and try to confuse you. A fun exercise is to read the answers without even reading the question. All you gotta do is pick out the responses a fellow in a three-piece suit would think some country doctor would take for the right answer and mark them wrong. (The ones that feel condescending are a dead give-away) The guy who wrote the test put those questions in there to try to trip you up and make himself feel smarter than what he is. Ain’t nothing to it.
The problem for the guy in the suit is he hasn’t seen as many people over the years as I have. Even though I might not be as smart as the cat who wrote up the quiz I’ve had so many good teachers the test gurus have trouble hanging with me. I enjoy poking a bit of good-natured fun at ’em. My wife says I like being a bit contrary.
Sir William Osler, the father of modern medicine, said, “Seeing patients without reading books is like going to sea without a compass, but reading books without seeing patients is like not going to sea at all.” I figure Sir Billy knew more about it than I do, so I’m sticking with him.
In memory of Aunt Minnie.
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