“Once you stop learning you start dying”

I’ve identified that learning is one of my core values (something some of you may have figured out on my behalf long before I did). I also recognize that I spend perhaps more time than I should contemplating learning- to some degree, my own learning, but also the learning of those around me. And when I say those around me, I mean ALL those around me- students, residents, colleagues, team members, everyone. And I don’t mean that I’m the smartest person in the room, either; instead, I’m focused on how we can learn together so that we can all be more effective in our identified roles. The phrase I’ve heard once, and for which I could recall the attribution, is the idea of “never not learning.”

Every day when I’m working with my team, I start with two core concepts:

  • What do I need to learn today? and
  • What do I need to do to facilitate my team learning today?

The first question reminds me to spend even 5 minutes looking up the answer to something that I’m curious about that day (for example, today I spent time reviewing the 2017 Hypertension Guidelines so we could make a good pharmacologic choice for one of my patients who seemed to be on an odd regimen). I’m not saying that 5 minutes is my ideal for learning, but on a busy day it may be what I can grab and I’ve learned to be satisfied with it in that setting. The second question is why sometimes rounds get a little long as I try to walk through clinical reasoning or relevant literature or the ethics of care we are or are not providing for a patient.

HBR recently published a helpful piece discussing how to integrate learning into our “usual” workflow. I’ve written before about my use of Twitter for my Personal Learning Network, and I consider that analogous to the “bottom up” suggestion of participating in a learning channel. I also have a few new ideas from that group of suggestions that I’m looking forward to incorporating into my learning practice- for example, I was much better as a medical student about keeping a “learning list” than I am now, and it’s a practice that it wouldn’t harm me to resurrect. I’m also going to look at blocking in an hour of each workweek that is just dedicated to learning and exploring things I’m curious about. I suspect I’ll spend my first dedicated learning hour considering the “top down” recommendations from the article so I can facilitate learning (cough…faculty development…cough) within our Department.

A practice mentioned in a different article that provides guideposts for becoming a better learner is one that I’ve already incorporated and that I find invaluable in my varied leader roles. Confession before we dig into this: I did an inventory at the beginning of the year that looked at how I manage information/ learn (Kolb’s learning styles), and my “reflection” score was exceptionally high. Thus, the idea of reflecting on experiences to think about what I have learned, what went well and what didn’t go well, and what I would do differently next time is fairly innate to me. If done through an Appreciative Inquiry lens, this can become a really fantastic way to encourage group learning as well (“What made the patient’s care great, and what can we do to achieve that every single time?”).

And with that, I’m off to reflect on my day. And perhaps to start on that cool idea of a learning list…