"The range of what we think and do is limited by what we fail to notice. And because we fail to notice that we fail to notice, there is little we can do to change until we notice how failing to notice shapes our thoughts and deeds."
~R. D. Laing
About 5 years ago, I started running. On a dare, I ran a 1/2 marathon. I needed to be challenged. For someone who had never been a runner, the 13.1 mile distance seemed like an unsurmountable distance. After the race, I realized that it wasn't as difficult as I had expected. It didn't require a lot of training. Like many amateur runners, I quickly made the leap from 1/2 marathon to marathon. I read the books and got training plans. I talked to marathoners. The truth is that the marathon is not just running a 1/2 marathon twice. Most will tell you it is much more; the marathon begins after the 20th mile.
Marathon training can be painful. In the beginning, it's fun. Most of the runs are rather short. The average training plan is about 3-4 months. If you run regularly, the first few weeks are just a continuation of what you have been doing previously. The challenges come when the middle distance run is greater than 8 miles and your long run is greater that 16 miles. Training runs that use to be 30-60 minutes become 1 1/2 - 2 1/2 hrs. Injuries begin to pile up. Your body aches. You ask yourself on a number of occasions the question, why? For me the answer is, because it is there. It is a challenge. I will defeat the 26.1 mile monster. The training is a necessary evil. The long runs of 18-22 miles on a Sunday must be done to prepare me for the marathon day. If I don't prepare, I won't be ready and I will fail.
In one of the early posts, I wrote about how I felt residents and medical students today are soft. Maybe that was a little harsh; they are more like the new, the proud, and the privileged. Some who read this thought I was speaking to the hot button issue of the 80 hour work week. My opinions don't have anything to do with the hours spent in the hospital. It has nothing to do with them wanting to have a life, i.e. not being in the hospital all the time. It has more to do with how they view their chosen career. When you are training, you can't do it part time. Medicine is not a DELL computer where you choose only your favorite components. You can't come into a specialty without having at least a basic knowledge. These basic components become the building blocks for future learning and professional growth.
When I look at my residents and the young medical students, there is an inherent lack of drive to learn their craft. It is no longer a priority. Like many of my generation, Gen X, and even more so in the Mellinial generation, there is a undercurrent of entitlement. It is their right to be taught this information and to do these procedures. They are not here for so called "scut." Heaven forbid we talk about patient care and continuity of care. We are in the era of teams and patient hand offs. No one is responsible for a patient. Patients are handed from one person to another like a hot potato. The residents are well rested but who is actually responsible for the patient. Who is taking ownership? Ah yes, it is the attending's responsibility. So, now if I am going to do everything, why should I teach? And if the attendings and mid level providers are going to be doing a majority of the patient care, are we training 1/2 a physician? Are we training physicians who can pass a test but can't treat a patient?
Regardless of the rules and regulations placed on training, patients still expect you to be a physician. When a patient asks you a question, you can't answer "I missed that lecture because I was over hours." No matter how low the hour restrictions go, physicians in training will still need to gain the experience. They must put in the time to train.
Medicine is mountain, regardless of your specialty. The amount of information that you need to understand is increasing. In todays medicine, the number of known diseases, medications, diagnostic testing, and procedures, are probably double of what they were 20 years ago. The business end of medicine is more complicated. Medical practices have adjusted because of medical legal issues. The style of medicine practiced is affected by both private insurance and CMS. There are regulating agencies, like JCAHO, that make suggestions hospitals have to follow. Then there is the possibility of P4P. You must be a physician, business man, politician, and lawyer. To say we teach them all well would be the understatement of the century.
Like the marathon, medicine requires endurance training. It can be fun, but for the most part it is painful. For clinical medicine, you simply have to get the clinical experience. Book learning helps but experience solidifies the information and places the written word into perspective. Regardless of how smart you are, you still have to put in time outside of the hospital to read. The reading must be not only on clinical and basic science, but also on the business, and health policy, ect. You must train yourself to prepare for the end game, you medical career and practice. Everyday is a school day and contrary to popular belief, your learning and educating does not end at 80 hours; just like my run doesn't stop at 20 miles.
“Never mistake knowledge for wisdom. One helps you make a living; the other helps you make a life.”