And other unusual things that happen when you’re an educational developer at a medical school

It’s a unique and interesting thing being one of the non-medically-trained employees who work (mostly behind the scenes) to help run the undergraduate medical education program at Queen’s. On the one hand, friends and family can sometimes think I’ve magically completed medical school in the types of questions they ask me. (I only work there, I say). On the other, through day-to-day interactions, I have absorbed terminology and “insider” information.

Having quietly marked my five-year anniversary working in medical education at the end of September, it was time for a little reflection. Here are five of the more unusual things that likely wouldn’t have happened to me before I worked at Queen’s School of Medicine:

  1. A new resident was surprised when, during a follow-up visit, I referred to my condition by name (gastroesophageal reflux disease), rather than calling it heartburn. “Most people don’t call it that,” she observed with surprise. I’d just done a curricular search for where and when we teach it – and at the earlier visit, that’s the term they used, so I paid attention.
  2. I can find my way around most of HDH and most of KGH most of the time. And I know there are THREE hospitals in Kingston, not two. (I just haven’t figured out the new Providence Care layout yet.) I’ve learned the “logic” of the multiple wings, the naming conventions, and – when all else fails – where to find the volunteer desk to ask directions.
  3. I now know that what you think something is might not be what it actually is. Case in point: My colleague’s son was diagnosed with OCD – but he’s not the least bit obsessive, so how does he have obsessive compulsive disorder? There’s another OCD, diagnosed by orthopedic specialists: Osteochondritis Dissecans of the knee. (It also stands for Ontario College Diploma, but that’s another story).
  4. Facebook thinks I’m a doctor. No, really, I get ads for MD Financial Management services, and medical conference. It’s based on analytics harvested from my Google searches (because everything is frighteningly linked these days). I search for things to assist with curriculum development, and voila! Facebook has changed my profession.
  5. I actually use those ubiquitous hand sanitizer dispensers while entering and leaving the hospitals. Every single time.

Because, as an educator, I just can’t help it: here are educational take-away lessons and considerations from these musings:

  1. When you’re “inside” you can forget what it’s like to be “outside”: how can remembering this influence communication, for example, in explaining acronyms, procedures, or what happens next? There’s power in language and understanding.
  2. When we’re familiar with buildings and facilities, it’s easy to forget what it’s like to be in an unfamiliar place and worried about getting around. How can we make instructions and directions as clear as possible?
  3. Don’t assume. If you’re not sure: ask. For example, we’re talking a lot about EPAs lately in undergraduate medicine. We don’t mean the US Environmental Protection Agency, but Entrustable Professional Activities. Even if we’re trying hard to adhere to my suggestion #1, we might slip up. Speak up and ask for clarification.
  4. Facebook still thinks I’m a doctor now and again, but more recently it’s promoting space-saving storage ideas and junk removal services. (I’m still adjusting to our downsized townhouse, 15-months in). The lesson here: We leave digital footprints everywhere we go. Intentionally (e.g. through public Twitter posts) or unintentionally through Google searches, nothing we do online is private. How should this influence what we do and how we do it?
  5. Paper cuts and hangnails do not like hand sanitizer. At all. Ever. Be careful.

Here’s to the next five years.