All I Want for Christmas…

Gratitude.  It was top of my list for Christmas this year.  To feel more grateful for the life I have, to not need more, to feel settled and ultimately at peace.  So while I sit in my quiet house, the chaos of the day having quieted down, the gifts I have asked for have arrived.

Flickr shared by Wolfsavard

The past two months I have had several close friends suffer serious health problems.  All of them went from lives busy with work, kids activities, holiday plans….  then everything in their lives suddenly came to a grinding halt.  When your health fails, that’s all that’s on the plate.  So, I am grateful for my health;  so far my life continues as is, and I wish to not take that for granted.

Working in the inner city once more this week reminded me of how grateful I am for my parents.  I am fortunate that they had no drug or alcohol addiction, no mental health issues or extreme  poverty.  They managed to make things work and keep our family functional and enriched.  It allowed me to develop and grow and have a “normal” childhood, unlike so many in our city.

I am grateful for my education.  My parents somehow instilled in us the importance of furthering our education.  It was not an option for us to learn, our only choice was what to learn about.  It continues to lead me in my career and to passing on that value to my own children.

Lastly, my gratitude falls to those who are closest to me.  There are people in my life who know the good in me and also the not so good in me….yet still choose to love me.  They are the ones who make life beautiful.  You know who you are.

Merry Christmas

Evolution of Learning

The box on the computer screen is staring back at me. The title is “Qualifications for Expert Review.” I’m supposed to fill it in.

I started work today on a job that a colleague recommended me for, and I am finding it absolutely interesting. It is providing “expert review” on an educational unit for pharmacists. (This one particularly on post-myocardial infarction.) However, looking at the box that requires me to explain my qualifications makes me feel….well….. unqualified! I’m waiting for someone to tap me on the shoulder and say “Hey, who made you an expert?? Pass along this job to a real expert!”

Copyright Flickr, shared by aaron schmidt

Coincidentally, when I took a break from the work I pulled up this blog post by Jeff Utecht called “How Much Longer Will a Degree Mean Something?” The post is speculating on the future of education and points toward a growing trend, especially in areas of technology, where experience and knowledge can count for more than a degree.

He also discusses Stanford’s growing collection of free classes. Thousands are signing up for the same classes that others are paying huge tuition dollars for. You get a certificate rather than credit for the classes, but the learning opportunity is the same.

This had me pondering my own learning and “expertise”. What are my credentials other than my degree? What does my experience count for? And how about my passion for my practice and my desire to keep learning? Does that count towards expertise?

When I first got out of university I thought I knew so much. And I did really, I had lots of great book learning. (Seriously though, did we really need to learn the chemical structure of all those drugs??)

The most important thing I learned in University, however, is how to learn. And the knowledge I have acquired in the 15 years since I’ve been in practice is vastly greater than what I learned in University.

My first year practising a patient asked me how the drug captopril worked in the body. I proceeded to tell him in great detail how  angiotension converting enzyme inhibitors  worked including the entire renin-aldosterone system in the body. And while I’m sure he found that fascinating, it was probably too much information 😉

I’ve learned a lot about educating since then. I have also learned that some of my greatest teachers have been my patients.

Students today just can’t believe that when I started practicing pharmacy I had to keep paper files on every medical condition and drug therapy. I would clip journal articles or make notes

Copyright Flickr shared by Zach K

from text books. There was no internet, no google, no looking up original journal articles or searching relevant references in the blink of an eye. Technology has made acquiring knowledge so much easier and being able to find answers to clinical questions invaluable. Today I have the most prestigious medical journals at my fingertips and connection to colleagues around the world to debate with. If I want to learn, it’s there.

So, while I’m not sure I would go so far as to call myself an “expert” in any particular area, taking on a job that requires me to stretch beyond what I thought was my current knowledge base has lead me to realize that I am capable of much more than I thought and I have the tools right in front of me. I can reach into the area of “expert” and feel comfortable there for awhile.