Tuesday, October 7, 2008

The Other Side of the Glass

I listened to a physician lecture the other night on research regarding Impedence Threshold Devices (ITDs), and couldn't help but be impressed. This physician exudes such a thorough grasp of his medicial science that it was a pleasure to sit back and listen to him expound. Like other experts, he utilizes a language particular to his field so fluid in it's composition and complete in content that the novice listener may easially become lost in the esoterica. He seemed heedless of the complexity of the subject, as if he didn't even notice as intertwined pathophysiologies wove a picture so artfully constructed that we listeners could only partially comprehend. I speak this language about as completely as I do Spanish, which is to say that I know only enough to get by in the situations that I have been preprogrammed to anticipate. Donde te duele, mejor, peor, y cual hospital.

To listen to this physician speak was as much enlightening as it was humbling. I enjoy very much seeing these doctors in their zone, hooking onto a subject and going through their paces as they have been trained to do. I can see that he enjoys it, and I can see that he is at home within the language and texture of the medical literature. He reads an article with a particular flair of skepticism, as if it was up to him alone to pass judgment on the trials that have been laid before him, and with glasses at the bridge of his nose, he does. "This research does not impress me," he says, "and I'll tell you why."

We paramedics sat at this lecture like cub scouts around a campfire, wide eyed and dedicated each minute to their scoutmaster. Our physician handed down samples of his experience that we will never ourselves see. He gave us a window into the depth of knowledge that dictates our actions from the other side of the glass, and he danced a jig that we prehospital providers will never truly learn. Sitting there the other night listening to this doctor speak, the gap between us was never more clear.

It was frustrating to be so acutely aware of this divide. Working a few good calls as a paramedic has the potential to endorse hubris, and perhaps I have fallen victim to it as of late. I know ACLS pretty well, and I'm proud to say it, but a few steps back sharpens the fact that my understanding spreads not much farther than an algorithm and some light associated background. Like it or not, the expertise exhibited by this doctor the other night contrasts sharply with my own.

It motivates, though. I've got role models. These lectures give me an opportunity to keep an eye on what I am working towards. I want to speak that language, I want to understand the detail and have it ready at my command, I want to have that conversation again, informed. As frustrating as it can be to be reminded of my current limitations, it makes real and adds luster to that which - at school - I am working towards.

One semester to go.