Blogger's Guide to CME: On Being a New Aunt & Summer Reading List

Sorry for the long radio silence-I've been in Blacksburg, VA for the past week nannying for my 1 month old niece Baby Ellen.

Let me tell you that there is no more joyous work in this world (except for maybe healthcare blogging, but I'm biased).

Also, I am now officially going to never have a little genetic replication of my own until science has placed us at the level of dubious distinction by which we can spring forth a fully formed 7 year old child ready to park in front of some cartoons or creative kid skills development thingy (on which Target makes approximately 1.6 gigagillion dollars a year, .5 gigajillion based on my spending for Baby Ellen alone).

My sojourn into adjunct infant care leads me to think being a good burping, changing, singsong aunt depends on 4 factors (other than not being nearly tonedeaf, which Ellen doesn't seem to mind - or at least she's polite enough not to say anything about it).

Being an aunt is about working the right resources in the right combinations. Performing the programmed responses at the correct times. Like working genetic code, without the right combination of nucleotide base pairs, A, a T, a C, or a G, the whole delicate but powerful structure collapses and something goes really wrong in the expression phase.

Here are the nucleotides necessary for coding being a new aunt:

1. C = A regular supply of coffee. We're talking dark, Mississippi Mud style coffee. We're talking burn your esophagus coffee. We're talking coffee that is so dark the pot turned off 2 hours ago and you don't even care that it has the consistency of Jello chocolate pudding coffee. Yeah. That kind of coffee. Medical residents, I'm sure you can empathize.

2. T = A ready attitude towards working through sleep deprivation. You're literally holding the most important thing in the world (your niece) in your hands and what, you're going to be clumsy with her, not change her, because you're a *little sleepy*? My mental mantra for the week was "suck it up." And I'm not even one of Ellen's parents, who got approximately 5.67e4 to the 3rd LESS sleep than I did. Respect, major, MAJOR respect to all new parents, whom, whether they stay at home or not, I believe now have the most complicated job in the world outside of nuclear waste handling or theoretical astrophysicists sniffing after proving the concept of multiverses.

3. A = A willingness to put aside self more often. It's very difficult to be selfish, nay, impossible to be selfish in the context of caring for a baby (gee, I'd like to be perusing my blogroll right now, Baby Ellen, you can wait for that changing and burping right?! Just give me 20 more minutes...). This is a tough thing to explain BEFORE the little bundle of new genomic joy has arrived and has you panting over seeing whether her phenomic expression more closely resembles dad, mom, gramps, or perhaps Auntie Niffer...literally, you watch new parents navigate the mental minefield that is realizing your life is no longer your own. That baby owns you, heart and mind and body and soul.

4. G = A desire to get out there and continue learning. Constantly. Via theory and practice. One thing being a new aunt gives you a lot of time to do is read. My afternoon nap pattern with Baby Ellen is either a walk in her Graco car seat and Strollee OR sitting in the rocker, baby in the Boppy (if you're a parent YOU KNOW about the miracle that is Boppy - if you're expecting, go out and buy 34 of them right now), book balanced on my knees. I did start to read "What to Expect the First Year," but staring at that creepy baby illustration on the front cover by nightlight at 2am and breaking out in an abject sweat, nervous about whether I'd stunt Ellen's development for life somehow or whether she was showing signs of some obscure neurological syndrome in the spasmodic sucking of her NUK orthodontic pacifier (patterned with sailboats, of course new from Target), I decided to read about how to fix healthcare for her generation instead. Oh and a little about how to protect the minute replication that is my niece, surely the cutest baby in the history of babies.

I'm certainly not alone in this desire to educate, educate, educate. New parents like my sister do tons of reading to beef up on baby care lore before delivery. We do tons of teaching in healthcare management, theory, administration, delivery, and practice. We should be doing more.

In doing some reading for Medical Education Evolution, the Ning group Berci Mesko, Ted Eytan and I kicked off earlier this month, I realized docs do a lot of CME activities (not an especially brilliant analysis of the field, but remember, I'm working in a sleep deprived state).

Question of the week: Why don't healthcare managers, hospital executives, HMO board members, medical students, geneticists, evolutionary biologists, PAs/NPs/Nursing managers, even, gasp, healthcare bloggers do more creative, constructive CME?

Journalists are expected to beef up sufficiently on a subject so as not to be total boobs during interviews. I'd heartily suggest the medical blogosphere take up that banner and run with it. I've read too many entries lately (including my own) that indicate we're just phoning it in this summer.

Yes, to some extent, we have excuses: it's vacation time. I'm busy caring for my grandma/mother/dad/friend/new niece. I'm on sabbatical. I'm preparing research for my fall paper and presentation schedule. It's the blogosphere - no one wants to read a research odyssey in each post.

Most of that's crap.

I stopped making excuses this week and decided to take myself 'back to school' and beef up my reading list.

Without putting forth much time, effort, or money (remember, time and effort are in short supply, and money is going to the Target Baby Ellen Time Wasting Fund), I compiled the reading list above.

The photo of books stacked in that photo are sources I'll read for the rest of the hot, humid weeks. I want to be done by mid-September, but we'll see.

The best part is I spent less than 150$ bucks - about half one credit hour fee for a course at a local community college. I'll use my online and offline networks to review the books and talk myself through critical evaluation of themes.

So, if you're willing to act on that "G" codon, number 4 above, you can obtain graduate level reading resources in three relatively easy, accessible places, most of them free:

1. Library. Blacksburg public library is a boon for medical, business, and science reading. Plus, you can buy pod machine coffee for 1$. I didn't tell them I would have paid 20. Bring your own bag so you don't use on of theirs.

2. Thrift Store. The Goodwill in Blacksburg, town which hosts Virginia Tech students and teachers, is a literal goldmine for poetry, literature, scientific, and other texts and abandoned reading list sources. Most go for under 5$ and are a "few" years out of date. But sometimes older books unexpectedly blow your mind - check out "The Medusa and the Snail: More Notes of a Biology Watcher" by Lewis Thomas, published by G.K. Hall and Co in 1980. Thomas was president of the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York and won a National Book Award for his book "Lives of a Cell." This book should be on every medical students required reading list. Head to your nearest college town, find the thrift stores/used book stores, and bring plenty of sturdy cloth bags. If the town is near-dead and only filled with groaning graduate students and summer school attendees, hit the local independent coffee shop and ask after places to buy used books. Also bring cash - not all thrift stores take plastic.

3. Twitter and Blog Recommendations. My Twitter friends' reviews influenced me to cave in and buy "Here Comes Everybody" and "The Back of the Napkin," so if you look closely you'll see both of those in the stack above. While I haven't *yet* tried tweeting a Twitter friend and asking to borrow a book, I may do just that. Especially as buying these books begins to cut into my Baby Ellen toy, ahem, educational resource purchases.

And now I'm off to work on codon 1...coffee. I'm more than willing to share my list, but challenge each of you to venture out and find resources that make sense for your particular phenomic expression within our industry.

Happy reading. The future of healthcare may depend on more of us being willing to go back to school.

No comments: