Sunday, November 13, 2011


A couple of weeks ago I got roped into a teaching session for the 2nd year students by my surgical team.  They were running a rotating series of 5 or 6 learning stations for about 8 students per group, and since one of the registrars was away they got me to run a station instead of him.

In the other stations the big boss surgeons sat the students down and presumably taught them surgeony things like the best bottle of red between $50 and $75, and who the best trainers for racehorses are.  My station, bizarrely, was a test.  Tough luck if you got the test first before you'd been taught anything.  Not that it really mattered because the test didn't count for anything.

It seemed to me to be a pretty pointless exercise.  Also, watching people do tests is not my idea of fun, so as each new group came into my room I would explain that they could choose between doing the test by themselves or having us all sit around and talk about the answers.  To their credit (I thought) the groups all chose a middle path and had a crack at it themselves before having a discussion afterwards.

The discussions were good. I would let them air their theories about what they thought was the right answer and why, and I made sure that everyone contributed at some stage, before I would tell them what I thought was the right answer (note the important caveat there - I was not given the answers) and why, and then we'd discuss it some more.  I got the impression they all found it kind of useful and somewhat interesting.

I was told to collect the papers but made an executive decision that the students might as well take them home instead, seeing as I pretty much told them all the answers anyway.  As a result I had this almost surreal conversation with one of the surgeons:
Indignant Surgeon
Where are all the test papers?

The students took them home.

Indignant Surgeon
How will the students know what the right answers are if we don't mark their papers?

I suppose they could always look things up.

Indignant Surgeon
But they'll pass the information on to the other students in other groups who haven't sat the test yet!

The test doesn't count for anything, right?

Indignant Surgeon
We'll have to change the test.

To recap, he was upset that students might go away and learn something, and even worse, might help other less motivated students to learn something too!  Silly me - I forgot that medical education has nothing to do with educating people.  It's actually all about making sure that people feel bad about how ignorant they are.

I was discussing this with my Smaller Half and she pointed out the additional absurdity that there is no way in hell that a surgeon is going to sit there and mark 50 exam papers that don't even count for anything.  I suggested that it would probably have been passed down to the Fellow, who would dump it on the Registrar, who would delegate it to the RMO, who would handball it to the Intern, who would sling it to me.

So not only was I able to actually teach people something, I also thwarted a stupid plan and saved myself some dull work in the process.  Win-win-win.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...


You should have seized your chance to milk the eggs out of that indignant sturgeon!

Black golds!