The Glorious Tradition of “See One, Do One, Teach One”
COMMENTARY: The time-honored philosophy of “See One, Do One, Teach One” seems to have become yet another senseless casualty in the conspiracy to “modernize” medical education. In the good old days, all a patient needed to know was that his or her doctor had once seen a heart transplant and had been endowed by the power of Medicine with an instinctive ability to perform that transplant unsupervised when the opportunity arose. We didn’t have this ridiculous reliance on repetition and supervision. These days, people are always asking, “How many of these have you done?”…”Is it safe?”…”What are the risks?”
When Medicine was in its glory days, people didn’t ask insulting questions like these. Back then, the word “doctor” communicated an unassailable infallibility. A physician’s demands were called doctor’s “orders” for a reason; they were never meant to be questioned or challenged by some doubting pharmacist, clerk, or nurse. These orders were written in stone like commandments from the finger of the heavens. No real doctor would have stood by and allowed uppity patients to act like they had gone to medical school just because they had seen something in an internet or on one of these “Googles” somewhere.
Trainees, too, have lost confidence in the medical gifts that allow them to perform inspired medical feats with no experience. When given a new assignment, a “learner” can often be heard moaning, “Ohh, I’ve never done that before, would you watch me?!” or “I don’t feel comfortable doing that yet.” This weakness makes me sick to my stomach for the future of America and has been bred into them by a system that teaches them to question their own abilities and to reach out feebly to others for support when things get tough.
I suppose we must resign ourselves to the fact that it’s all part of an education system going soft. New trainees are getting used to schedules that weaken their passion for medicine by permitting them to leave the hospital for more than a quarter of their waking hours. This laxity creates a false dependence on family life and “balance” by allowing them to grow attached to loved ones and leisure activities. These attachments will only hold them back in their careers and prevent them from truly excelling at what they do. When I was in training, we regarded it as a matter of pride when we missed an anniversary, neglected a hobby, or briefly forgot our kid’s name. We were proud because we knew that in leaving behind the petty distractions of daily life, we were reaching heights that most mortals could only imagine.
So let’s just put a stop to all of this spineless bellyaching about “proper” supervision. I’ll admit that I don’t like getting my hair cut by a first-timer so much, but, hey, it’s part of their education. And just like hairs, some organs can grow back a little if an unskilled scalpel takes off a bit too much. Post-op, patients should look down at the ragged, poorly sutured scar on their abdomen and forget about the fact that they can’t wear a swimsuit at the beach anymore. Instead, they should beam with pride, because the misshapen scar will remind them that their body was once used to teach a budding doctor how to operate.
K.R. Thuxston. III, MD
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Featured image from Flickr / vigdor