How To Learn From Your Patients - Dr Aniruddha Malpani
As medical students, we used to learn from our professors and from our medical textbooks. In clinical practice, we don't have professors to teach us anymore, which is why we need to learn by reading medical journals; attending conferences; and from our colleagues.
However, a very important source of learning which we often forget to take advantage of is our patients. All good doctors accept that they learn from their patients all the time. However, you do need to follow a process to maximise what you can learn from your patients.
Firstly, you need to be respectful , and understand that patients can be very valuable sources of knowledge , if you're willing to tap into them. Thus, it's possible to use patients as unpaid research assistants, ask them to look for information on the internet or do a PubMed search. Patients are extremely motivated. Some of them are extremely intelligent and have great business analysis skills, which they can apply to their medical problem as well . Ask them to share the information they learn by doing an internet search with you, so that together you can polish your skills - and theirs as well . You do need to guide them in the right direction , and provide them with feedback, so that the results of their search become progressively better.
Secondly, keep your heart and your ears open. There are lots of inadvertent experiments which occur naturally in real life in clinical medicine. For example, some patients don't follow your instructions ; or forget what you tell them, in which case they end up doing something completely different; or they combine your treatment with alternative medicines. These are clinical trial where n = 1. When this happens, they're scared and they don't tell you that they forgot to do what you told them; or that they did something completely different, as result of which we never learn from these encounters. Sometimes, the outcomes of these variations is better than we would have expected. We need to treasure these exceptions and learn from them. If you keep your channels of communication open , and tell patients it's okay to make mistakes provided they share them with you, you may realize that even though the patient made a mistake, the outcome really wasn't bad at all - or perhaps was even better. You can learn from these first-hand experiences of your patients, and use these to tweak the treatment protocols which you offer.
Finally, smart patients will come up with clever hacks, and useful tips and tricks they use in order to manage their illness. When you see that a patient is doing a great job at taking care of himself, ask them what they are doing - and request them to share their experiences and expertise with you, so that you can teach your other patients as well !
Source (docplexus- requires free registration for doctors)