“Look at every path closely and deliberately, then ask ourselves this crucial question: Does this path have a heart? If it does, then the path is good. If it doesn't, it is of no use.” ~Carlos Castaneda

Sunday, July 20, 2008

All they need is calm assertive leadership ...

Accept it/undermined
Your opinion/your justification
Malice/utter weakness
No toleration - Invade
Committed/enraged/admit it
Don't condescend/don't even disagree
You've suffered then, now suffer unto me.

Obsession - take another look.
Remember - every chance you took.
Decide- either live with me
Or give up - any thought you had of being free

SLIPKNOT - The Nameless

We just got a new dog, a Rhodesian Ridgeback. She is a beautiful dog. She is both sweet and feisty. She is a puppy and, as such, has all the puppy traits. To break her of all these traits, we attend puppy class and read all sorts of opinionated books on puppy training. We have even watch, on occasion, Ceasar Millan . What I have learned is that dogs have a pack mentality. They look for a pack leader, and try to improve their position within the pack. As I work on my own family pack and being the pack leader within my home, I couldn't help but recognize the similarities of the dogs' approach to a pack and residents' approach to residency.

It is July. The month that all residencies have the transition. The Spring residents are experienced and polished. They understand their roles and are comfortable their position. This is in total contrast to the Summer residents. They have yet to figure out their role. Like dogs in a pack, they are all jockeying for position. As an attending, I am suppose to be the pack leader. I find humor in this battle for position. Sometimes, they challenge one another. On occasion, someone in the pack challenge the pack leader. How the pack leader approaches this confrontation determines his/her status in the pack and can not be taken lightly.

In training my dog, I have learned some training techniques that are different from when I had my first dog. The choker chain seems to be out. There is no more rubbing your dogs nose in their accidents. Now, the trend is crate training and the kinder gentler pack leader. The overall goal is still to assert your dominance in a less painful but assertive way.

As a residency pack leader, I can't follow Ceaser Millan's fulfillment formula of exercise, discipline, and affection. Although it would be fun, the ACGME may frown on it. Ceasar does have some advice that can be parlayed into residency education. He recommends setting rules, boundaries, and limitations. Along with being consistent and fair, these can be effective techniques in teaching/training adult learners.

In the past, if a resident would question or challenge his/her attending, s/he would be handed an embarrassing beat down comparable to a WWE smack down. Many would use their favorite tools of fear and humiliation. In the new age of the educator, things have changed. Socratic questioning is losing favor and may go the way of the choker chain. Although the techniques have changed, the ultimate goals have not. As a dog trainer, our goal is to have an obedient dog that follows commands, doesn't make a mess of the house, and is kind to others. As a physician educator, our goal is to produce a competent physician/surgeon who has the needed skills, is considerate of others, and understands his/her limitations.

Calm assertive leadership is Ceaser's recommendation to the pack leader. Following this rule is tough. When the puppy nips at your toes or the resident questions your treatment method, you just want to smack them, figuratively speaking. I like to tell my residents, "my pimp hand is strong." I know this is not the way to approach it, but the urge is there. In the end, I have to fight that urge and smile. Instead of the physical punishment, I have to use guidance, reinforcement, and occasionally a treat. Eventually, they will learn, and if they don't, I could always just take them to the pound.

“Patience and perseverance have a magical effect before which difficulties disappear and obstacles vanish.”
~ John Quincy Adams

Thursday, July 10, 2008

I am the boss of me ...

William Ernest Henley

Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the Pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.

In the fell clutch of circumstance
I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance
My head is bloody, but unbowed.

Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
Finds, and shall find me, unafraid.

It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll,

I am the master of my fate;
I am the captain of my soul.

We are well into another July. Like all of the previous years, nothing seems to change except my age. The residents switch over and ascend to their new status: interns to residents, juniors to chiefs. Everyone is in their new role, but my role stays the same.

In this new academic year, I continue in my role as surgeon educator ... lecture, clinic, surgery. I am a team player. If my partners as for help, I am there. I have a difficult time "dumping" on others, instead "I suck it up". Again, I am a team player.

I try to model for my residents what I feel are good characteristics of an orthopaedic surgeon. Giving them insight into errors I and others have made in both thought and technique. I model characteristics I hope that they will pass on to those behind them and utilize in their practices. It is my way of giving back in homage to those who spent that time on me.

Today, I sit in my office after 7 waiting for a case and I am not on call. Why? I feel it is the right thing to do for the patient. On the other hand, my all of resident have gone home. I guess I can't expect that they too would feel the need to stay, but I can still hope.

So, I continue to model.

“Learn from yesterday, live for today, hope for tomorrow. The important thing is not to stop questioning.”
~Albert Einstein