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Whether sharing knowledge with medical students or with peers, teaching what you know is an important part of being a physician.
It is very important, for those of us in a busy medical practice to remember that we once were students. How many of you can remember being in awe at the mastery your preceptor would display when he or she would teach you regarding the patients you were seeing on your clinical rotations? I have been very fortunate to have been taught by several different fine physicians over the course of my medical career, both in medical school and in residency. One of my first-year anatomy professors once told me that teaching facilitates understanding. As I continue in career in clinical practice, I continue to reflect on what he said.
It is for this reason that I choose to teach during my clinical practice. I regularly host third- and fourth-year medical students. I have found that both my patients and my staff warmly welcome each student as they come and go. Many of the patients I am presently caring for tell me that they remember when I would walk into the exam room as a student myself. They smile at the students and remind them, "...we helped Dr. Litton to learn and now we will do the same for you."
Teaching certainly does facilitate understanding. In order to teach effectively, one must truly master the subject they are discussing. Further, I regularly study and prepare myself during each student rotation so that I can make sure I am making the most efficient use of their time. There was nothing more dissatisfying than being placed with a preceptor who was not excited about teaching. I remember this and do not want to be known as "one of those" preceptors.
I regularly teach other physicians as well. I have regularly been asked by my EHR software vendor to travel to their annual user conference to teach other conference attendees and provide them with tips and tactics to more efficiently use their software. This year was no different. My EHR vendor has been working on an iPad application and had asked me to serve as a beta tester.
After several months of using the beta application, I was asked to demonstrate the application for the attendees. Prior to teaching the demonstration, I thought that I was a fairly robust user. However, in the weeks prior to my demonstration, I carefully read and re-read the application manual and further familiarized myself with each and every aspect of the software. After teaching two different sessions, I have returned from the conference an even more robust user and master of the software.
We all must remember that even though we have received our degree and board certification, medicine is a field in which we all remain at the student level. As each year passes, practice standards are updated, medications are released, and guidelines are updated. We can only truly be a more effective clinician for our patients if we continue the lifelong process of reading and studying. By teaching others what we have learned, we can better understand as students ourselves.
Find out more about J. Scott Litton and our other Practice Notes bloggers.