Training and learning are fundamental for any professional. Keeping up with the latest developments enable entrepreneurs to provide the best service for their customers and improve their own return on investment.
Healthcare providers take professional development one step further. Their expertise might be the difference between life and death for patients – particularly those with uncommon illness.
Dr. Remo-tito Aguilar, an orthopedic surgeon, is chief of clinics at General Santos Medical Center at the Southern Philippines Medical Center in Davao City. He found himself called on for medical help for an illness he had not treated in years.
“A neighbor knocked on my door asking if I could look at his 9-month-old nephew,” Aguilar said. “His nephew was weak, had an on-and-off fever for a week, and was vomiting since that morning.”
The doctor recalled the conversation:
“Your nephew is dehydrated,” I said. “Bring him to the nearest hospital now.”
“I couldn’t remember the last time I managed a pediatric acute gastroenteritis,” Aguilar said. “As an orthopedic surgeon, I rarely deal with such cases unless one of my family members contracts the disease. Even then, I rarely manage pediatric AGE.”
He talked with other healthcare providers about their strategies for learning, starting with what inspires them to learn.
“In clinical research and laboratory medicine, we learn of new cases of infections not responding to treatment,” Yinka Vidal said. “Congestive heart failure that has stopped responding. Broken hand that healed with bone separation. New trends of diseases.”
Vidal is compelled to stay current in the field to support his work as a healthcare professional and lecturer.
“We all want to be the best in what we do, especially in serving others,” said. “Nobody wants to be left behind with new innovations and technology in medicine — or any profession.
“The world is always changing,” Vidal said. “At times, the change can be so overwhelming. Old things and procedures become not as useful. I remember a couple of years ago teaching my dentist how to use email.”
His continuous learning is an avocation that supports his vocation.
“Learning new things is always very exciting to a curious mind,” Vidal said. “Nothing keeps me up at night as much as the excitement at the verge of discovering something new in medical science.
“I learned a lot from my students, especially when they asked me questions that forced me to do more research about the subject matter,” he said.
Dr. Aileen Dualan wants to be “a better version of me.” She is Asia Pacific medical affairs lead for MSD pharmaceuticals.
“There is soooo much to learn, and life is too short,” Dualan said. “Make the most of it.
“The scientific world is ever-changing,” she said. “People are changing. The environment is changing. Learning helps us cope with all the changes. You can’t possibly know everything, but at least learn something new. That is still one step closer to being more prepared for change.”
Dr. Gia Sison, an occupational health expert, also leads the Philippines Livestrong Foundation.
“Medicine is a continuous learning process,” she said. You learn, grow and help others at the same time. That’s inspiration for me.”
Agular takes his cue from those under his care.
“As a healthcare professional, my inspiration for learning is my patients,” he said. “I may be the learner, but patients are bigger than me.”
Dr. Iris Thiele Isip Tan, an endocrinologist, relishes her nickname as the Endocrine Witch.
“When I learn, I have something to pass on to my students,” she said. “They inspire me.
“As a physician, I’ve committed to lifelong learning,” Tan said. “My patients deserve the best care I can give. I like learning new things. That’s how I got into Twitter. How does this work? What can I do with this? I tinker.”
Katy Hanlon specializes in clinical research and health communication.
“I am inspired to learn always and have never reflected upon the what or who behind that,” she said. “Perhaps it is around genuine curiousness fostered by those I meet on Twitter and beyond.”
Dr. Jaifred “Jim” Lopez takes pride in knowing his desire to learn has made a difference for others.
“What inspires me more is when my patients and families come together and realize that they are one community,” he said. “Then they work together and catch up on one another. My heartbeat quickens at such thought.
“I am excited to learn something lifesaving that I know I can transmit to others,” Lopez said. “I end up saving more and more lives. It is such an inspiring thought.”
The group compared learning strategy, taking advantage of every opportunity for learning that arises. That can include formal classwork or informal chats in the hallway. Much like networking, the best learning occurs during the breaks.
“I am slowly getting adjusted to the busy academic routine,” Lopez said. “Twitter helps a lot. I still get exposed to the leaders in the field — and even socialize with them.
“Learn with what’s available,” he said. “Since I’m usually with my phone in hand, I use it to learn. I always visit Wikipedia. I follow and connect with leaders in my field.”
Vidal knows the penalty for slacking.
“It’s very difficult to teach and not be updated through regular reading of research reports,” he said. “Otherwise, you will be challenged by your students.”
Vidal gave his personal education steps:
- Motivation to learn.
- Curiosity to know.
- Unwillingness to be left behind.
- The excitement of new findings.
“A journalist in the United States said, ‘A diploma is not evidence of education, but the contrary,’” Vidal said. “The real evidence of education comes when we can effectively apply what we learn in different situations.
“I’m sure many of us have encountered clinical cases that defiled the norms and shocked the daylights out of an experienced clinician,” he said.
Tan makes a point to get the most out of her online connections.
“Personal learning networks on Twitter are my ‘ears on the ground,’” she said. “I enjoy the serendipity of my feed. Every so often when there’s something awesome, a friend tags me.”
Aguilar noted that today’s learning environment is different.
“There is content, medium and how we communicate that content,” he said. “If you have a busy practice, a strategy is needed. Otherwise, you’ll be lost somewhere.
“My learning paradigm now follows connectivism: Co-create, store, retrieve and create content from various sources in my network that enriches my learning,” Aguilar said. “Then I evaluate these sources of information based on relevance, usability and interactivity.”
With the spread of the internet, more learning takes place informally online.
“Though not working as a direct-care clinician, I remain committed to learning,” Hanlon said. “I find Twitter and Twitter chats the place to begin exploration of the latest publications and healthcare technology. They support exchange and community building.”
Added benefits come when instructors provide information students can’t Google.
“Use both human connection and technology such as virtual reality to support the lecture,” Hanlon said.
“I use online twitter chats and hashtags as my launching and networking points,” she said. “From there, I proceed to free online webinars, virtual conference participation, publication reading and one-to-one connecting.”
Hanlon finds YouTube the best for learning.
“I learned how to tie sailing knots – – along with more work-related endeavors,” she said.
Dualan also endorsed video sources for learning.
“YouTube would have great utility for medical students nowadays,” she said. “I remember being on call as an attending some 20 years ago. I gave instructions over the phone on how to reduce a nursemaid’s elbow. Today, you can Google that.”
She also uses podcasts audiobooks and similar tech, especially when traveling. They help keep her downtime busy.