Monday, March 26, 2012

Smart Phones, Pagers, and Distractions

I love the inflammatory, attention getting title of this NPR piece:

"Hospitals Warn Smartphones Can Distract Doctors."

The most distracting part of my job, by far, is my pager.  I did a lumbar puncture yesterday, and I turned off my phone.  My pager, however, rang 3 or 4 times during the procedure.  Good thing I have perfected the use of my elbow to scroll through pages.

click here to listen
Our art as physicians is to manage distractions and being a resident is learning to be someone who develops tools and skills to filter distractions.

Our patients attempt to distract us with details and non sequiturs, but we filter our histories and gather the pertinent details.  We anticipate the needs of our consults before we call them, in order to limit their questions.  We make sure to order our morphine as MR1, so as to be asked one less question by nursing.  We use decision algorithms and we run our primary and secondary surveys the same way each time to streamline our decision making.

Our phones can be distracting, but we can also learn to filter them as we do the countless other distractions we face in the hospital.  And moreover, if used properly, phones can be one more useful tool to keep us on track.

- Teach, MD

- thank you to Abigail Ballou for leading me to this NPR piece

Friday, March 16, 2012


Salman Khan was featured on 60 minutes last week. He and the Khan Academy have become wildly popular and have officially achieved rock-star status. How many followers does Khan have now? Over 3.5 million unique users.

Now, TED-Talks is soliciting the lessons of teachers. They are attempting to showcase on an international medium, what can only be seen in individual classrooms. This has the potential to radically change the face of teaching as a profession.

People do not chose teaching for fame and money. Many have written op-eds about how we undervalue teachers, and many politicians have given lip-service to the raising of teachers' salaries. But no-one has come up with a salient way to do this.

Perhaps now, if teachers are judged on popular opinion, and their value spreads beyond the classroom and into the homes of millions, teachers will start demanding larger salaries. Our culture puts monetary value on popularity for popularity's sake - perhaps academia can use this to its advantage.

- Teach, MD