Thursday, January 04, 2007

Problem Solving Skills Dos

We're doing CPP&T this quarter, which is the part of medical school where they actually teach medicine. Each lecture takes the following format: "Here's a disease, here's how you get it, here's how you recognize it, here's how you treat it." Then we have lab twice a day, which is a series of cases where patients have the illness and we have to establish differentials and suggest labs and such.

We're also taking Physical Diagnosis, part of which is to run around the hospital, interviewing patients and doing as much of the physical we have learned, then trying to do diagnosis and present them to an attending physician.

It occurred to me today that medicine is very much like school problem solving - you are presented a patient/problem, you attempt to solve it in a stereotyped way based on practice problems of a similar appearance. You either get it right or wrong, but either way, you quickly move on to the next problem. If you do a good or bad job overall, it will definitely matter, but success on one problem, or even one type of problem is not necessary.

This is unlike other areas of work, which I can't think of right now, where either you can't move on, or all your problems are interrelated in ways that are simply impossible to entangle.

Anyway, that makes medicine comparatively comfortable, as opposed to, say, research, where you may be stuck on a problem for years, never knowing if you have the right answer.

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