How Surgeons Learn

If you read the other two articles in this newsletter, you probably realized that I had two heaping helpings of music to feed my insatiable appetite. However, I did spend a lot of time learning along the way. Going to medical meetings is one of the many ways a physician keeps his skills honed. Although there are more presentations on the latest techniques than one could possibly attend, it’s the one-on-one and small group discussions where the magic begins. It is during these interactions that I can clarify the finer details in my mind. Also, being able to compare notes with other surgeons helps me fine-tune and validate my techniques.

My patients are one of my greatest sources of knowledge, whether through direct communication or merely by witnessing their experiences. In fact, tracking my patients’ outcomes data has molded my surgical techniques and overall care. Along the same lines, when developing a new technique, I often record the procedure for subsequent viewing and analysis.

Teaching is another way I hone my skills. This identifies any gaps in knowledge or understanding, and it always keeps me on my toes. Video mentoring is a prime example. Other surgeons will send me video clips of their procedures, and I will return them with voiceover comments and annotations. I love watching other experts’ surgical videos, and I love watching my own videos with a critical eye. Video mentoring is the best of both worlds.

Of course, practice makes perfect. Next month, I’ll discuss ways to practice with zero harm to a patient. In the meantime, I will try to use all of the learning opportunities around me – but always with the questioning nature of a child.