Friday, 8 February 2008

The thigh bone is connected to the hip bone

I caught a snippet the other day of a radio programme entitled "Where's the femur?". This question- a simple one you might think- was one a junior doctor on a ward apparently failed to answer correctly. Well, dur!

I mentioned the programme to someone who had heard more than a snippet. He thought that the "junior doctor" in question was actually a medical student. Still not a good scenario - a medical student who doesn't know where to find a bone that most of us have heard of.

Look at the story this way. You're student. You're in a real live hospital full of patients. You are sweeping along in the wake of God - oops - I mean a consultant. You draw up to a bed. Consultant warbles at length about the poor patient who is there, in their jimjams, feeling like a specimen at the zoo. Suddenly the consultant is turning to you. It's like being back in school, with the Headmaster glaring at you. "You! You child! Battle of Agincourt! Come on ! Hurry!"

You go beetroot red, you stare at your shoes, and you whisper "I don't know, Sir". The roar comes back "You don't know, Sir? You don't know the date of the Battle of Agincourt? Class! Look upon this child. He doesn't know when the Battle of Agincourt was." Class giggles, you pray for the ground to swallow you up, and Headmaster sweeps off down the corridor.

I'm not saying that this was the attitude of the consultant. Some of this is to do with the fact that there is nothing like being put on the spot to make your mind go blank. But there is a question to be asked about bedside teaching. Being able to do something is not the same as being able to teach it. Teaching is a skill in istelf. There is a definite surge of interest in medical teaching and how it is done. Nurses have already been thinking about teaching and learning for a while. We have plenty of books in the library that look at how adults learn, at teaching, assessing, mentoring and coaching, at learning styles and reflective practice. And our current awareness service has a section on education issues.

The other issue is anatomy. Some claim that there is not enough anatomy teaching. There is certainly no shortage of anatomy books. Favourites here include Ellis's Clinical Anatomy, Gray's Anatomy, Ross and Wilson and Tortora.

For those who prefer to learn online there is the Visible Human from the Univeristy of Colorado, offering 3D models and movies. You'll find basic line drawings through the Univesirty of Iowa's Anatomy Atlases. The award winning e-anatomy site uses CT and MRI for its pictures. Other online anatomy resources arw listed on the Radiology Student Resources website and on the University of Virginia's anatomy pages. On a more basic level there is a great bit on the BBC website that has bones and other bits of the body with facts, figures, diagrams and games. So there is really no excuse for not knowing where to find your femur.

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