Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Pimp my expensive education

There is a thing in medicine called, "pimping". Basically, pimping is when a higher up doctor puts a lower down doctor or medical student on the spot in front of the group and makes them answer a question about medicine.  The idea is to see what a young doctor knows about a subject that comes up on patient rounds regarding their disease.  Although sometimes it's about history.  Or trivia. Sports sometimes.  I once saw an attending pimp a patient.  No joke, the patient was a PhD in physics and he started asking him who discovered some string theory equation.  The guy was like, uh I don't know, but my ankle reallyl hurts.  He was then told to read more. Pimping is as old as medicine* (there is a story in the bible where Jesus, right before healing a sick man, asks one of his disciples to name the 4 kinds of gastric ulcers, then smotes him and tells him to read more.  I think it's in John somewhere) and has a lot of surrounding controversy.

The controversy exists because it sort of sucks to be made to look like an idiot in front of a bunch of people.  Generally, the term "unnecessary humiliation" gets thrown around in sensitivity meetings.  On the other side of the coin is that fact that frankly, you learn a lot from being pimped.  Once you get over the shear terror that is being asked a factual question in front of a bunch of people you don't really know who will judge and grade you based on your answer, you swallow your fear, take a small poop in your pants, and give an answer.  You will either surprise yourself with what you know, or get the answer wrong and be told the correct answer.  I know some of the most obscure facts in medicine because the emotion associated with the question burned the answer into my brain parts (but let's be clear, that emotion is fear).

A good pimper, one who asks relevant and useful questions (see this post about the difference) without adding too much visible weight to the answer, will teach you more than you can imagine.  In fact, once med students get over the sharp pain of being pimped, many will agree that a rotation without pimping is a decidedly dull one.  A lot of being a med student is scut work; a term that means "shit" work.  "Call this nursing home", "make sure that CT got done", "walk this patient down the hall"; those are things I am asked to do on a daily basis.  Only paying 70 grand a year, NBD.  So getting a little extra teaching in the form of a jeopardy (because you are in actual danger) style learn-a-thon is not that unpleasant.

*Note: I once looked up the origin to the use of the word, "pimping" in medicine.  It doesn't seem novel now, since MTV pimps everything that can be bejeweled, but it is listed in books and articles in the 70's.

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