“I know that you believe you understand what you think I said, but I'm not sure you realize that what you heard is not what I meant.”
I really enjoy the interaction with my medical students and residents. I like to see their eyes light up with new knowledge and experiences. It is like hitting the sweet spot on the golf club; it is what keeps you coming back for more. As much as it can be a joy, it can be an enormous headache.
For many surgeons, there are cases that we commonly do. We do them so often that it becomes like second nature. Our moves are effortless. We have our favorite instruments and our favorite retractors. We know what works for us. When teaching someone your techniques, you have to put into words what has become second nature to you. This can bring on some frustration from both the educator and the learner.
In my practice, the most difficult techniques to teach are the percutaneous techniques. What makes this difficult to teach? For percutaneous techniques, you need to have a mental picture of what is underneath the skin without seeing. Using skin land marks, 2-D xray images, and other room indicators of position, you should be able to determine your position in a black box. For most novice surgeons, there 3-D understanding of anatomy is very limited. They rely a lot on vision and fluoroscopic images to determine position. In percutaneous procedures, vision is taken away. The lack of visual input created a void of input and the causes an extreme reliance on fluoroscopic images. With only one input, they become confused and frustrated; they lose orientation; they lose focus. I lose hair.
For the pediatric orthopaedist, the supracondylar humerus fracture (SCH FX) is the most common fracture that we operatively treat. In my hands, >95% of SCH FX can be treated closed or percutaneous. If I do a Type II or Type III SCH FX, after draping, it takes about 10-15 minutes. Quickly, my routine. Patient in the room and intubated. Metal anesthesia Christmas tree on the operative head side with a foam pad. Patient moved to the edge of the bed, on the operative side. The bed is turned. The C-arm is turned upside down and used as a table. The are is prepped and draped. Using fluoroscopy, the elbow is reduced and arm is held flexed with a coban. Then I place 2-3 lateral to medial 0.625 K wires. The coban is released. The positions are checked and the fracture is stressed. Pins are bent and cut. Easy as pie right. But, the hard part is placing the pins. This is where I struggle.
The placement of percutaneous pins or any percutaneous procedure requires a specific understanding of the anatomy and the ability to uses references to identify the position of what you cant see. If you can imagine, you have a black box that you can not see into and you have to place instruments in a specific position based on references and a 2-D image. Oh, and the box is moved to get the opposing 2-D image. This is difficult. Because the young surgeon relies so much on the fluoroscopic image, they are easily disoriented. They start randomly placing pins without much other reference/sensory input. This is what I refer to is the Young Skywalker Effect.
Ben: Remember, a Jedi can feel the Force flowing through him. Luke: You mean it controls your actions? Ben: Partially, but it also obeys your commands. Han: [laughs] Hokey religions and ancient weapons are no match for a good blaster at your side, kid. Luke: You don't believe in the Force, do you? Han: Kid, I've flown from one side of this galaxy to the other. I've seen a lot of strange stuff, but I've never seen anything to make me believe there's one all-powerful Force controlling everything. There's no mystical energy field that controls my destiny. It's all a lot of simple tricks and nonsense. Ben: I suggest you try it again, Luke. This time, let go your conscious self and act on instinct. [Ben puts a helment on Luke covering his eyes] Luke: With the blast shield down, I can't even see. How am I supposed to fight? Ben: Your eyes can deceive you. Don't trust them.
“You are rewarding a teacher poorly if you remain always a pupil.”