Dr. Bradley Block, an ear, nose and throat specialist, breaks down the ENT resident experience, common struggles, and tips to become a better ENT.
How to Excel as an ENT Resident
The largest struggle of ENT residents is learning how to treat ears. It takes considerable skill to learn how to tell the difference between a healthy versus infected eardrum. This is especially difficult when dealing with children, who are a large proportion of patients, because they tend to wriggle. They also have very small ears, making diagnosing ear infections more tricky. One tip to overcome this is to practice detecting ear infections in adults first, which will make it easier when you have to treat children. Another struggle is determining where you are in your educational journey. There are three stages to become a successful ENT:
- Becoming an effective information collector – this involves learning how to only focus on important information and leaving out irrelevant facts about the patient.
- Arriving at diagnoses – this involves learning how to use the facts to arrive at a diagnosis.
- Making management decisions – this involves thinking about how to further treat the patient. For example, should you perform further tests? Should you prescribe a particular drug?Only by developing an awareness of where you stand amongst the three ENT learning stages can you take steps to move on to the next.
Surgery as an ENT Resident
Brad’s advice for otolaryngology residents is to dive into surgery, which is often the most difficult set of skills to learn as an ENT. Honing these skills can be key to becoming a successful otolaryngologist. By diving into surgery, the attending physicians become more comfortable with you, you get more skilled, and in turn the attending physicians become even more comfortable with you. A feedback loop. For medical students, and those preparing for residency, Brad urges them to improve their soft skills, such as how to interact with patients, get the patient information that is relevant to a diagnosis, and cultivate a good relationship with your preceptor. Brad also urges humility, and a willingness to listen, learn and improve. He recalls being defensive when people advised and criticized him earlier in his career — and strongly advises against this.
Biggest Change to Medicine in Coming Years?
When asked about the biggest change that he would like to see in medicine in the next five to ten years, Brad emphasized that education should be evidence-based. Instead of urging students towards the rote memorization of facts, Brad proposes a different approach. First, determine the definition of a “good” doctor and second, develop materials that help students to achieve this definition. He advises that you teach students how to interact with patients, how to be aware of their potential biases towards patients from a given socio-economic background, and how to become more effective and efficient learners all around.
Dr. Bradley Block hosts the Physician’s Guide to Doctoring podcast which covers “everything doctors should have been learning when they were busy learning the Krebs cycle.”
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