Blog | Friday, June 3, 2016

Tips for clinician educators--practice your talks

This week I will give a talk on acid base and electrolyte disorders. I teach these subjects regularly, yet designing this talk has challenged my skills. My problem is the curse of knowledge.

The problem is that once we know something—say, the melody of a song—we find it hard to imagine not knowing it. Our knowledge has “cursed” us. We have difficulty sharing it with others, because we can't readily re-create their state of mind.

At the board in morning report I have learned to show my work. I give the learners plenty of opportunities to ask questions if I become obtuse. But in designing a talk, I have to anticipate the problems.

So I become the anti-Allen Iverson, the professional basketball player who notoriously had an outburst about his practices. I practice. I first practiced for 3 weeks and got some very good suggestions. Then again a practiced with different colleagues who pointed out all the assumptions that I should not make in designing the talk. I sent them all an e-mail today:

Thanks greatly for helping me improve my talk. Practice, especially for talks like this one, always help us improve our delivery and help us get the message through to our learners. When we write our talks, especially if we feel like we have some expertise, we get trapped by the curse of knowledge.

I have redone the order of the cases, and hopefully fixed many errors. I did decide to leave out case #6 to allow more time for careful explication.

If you have time to quickly peruse the slides, I would welcome any further

comments. Again, thanks for helping me improve this talk.

I have given talks for over 30 years. I'm told that I give good talks. Practicing always helps me do better. Fortunately I have colleagues who understand that they have an obligation to give specific critiques. They did a great job. Hopefully the talk will go well. If so, I will once again understand the value of practice.

This is related to a wonderful podcast that I listened to today, “How to become great at anything.” We should all value deliberate practice and this podcast explains the concepts beautifully.

db is the nickname for Robert M. Centor, MD, FACP. db stands both for Dr. Bob and da boss. He is an academic general internist at the University of Alabama School of Medicine, and is the Regional Associate Dean for the Huntsville Regional Medical Campus of UASOM. He still makes inpatient rounds over 100 days each year. This post originally appeared at his blog, db's Medical Rants.