Thursday, June 6, 2013

Information overload and the veterinarian

My friend Glenn's inbox. The man does nothing by halves, but he never gets to the bottom of the pile.

Its hard to switch off in the digital age, and one thing we have to cope with increasingly - everyone does - is information overload. I read this passage from a book called Finding Balance in Medical Life by the late Dr Lee Lipsenthal.

(NB Dr Lipsenthal died in 2011 from oesophageal cancer. His website remains  active with some interesting links).
“In the 1940s there were three major medical journals in the United States: all three were monthly subscriptions, two of which were newsletters. Keeping up with the literature meant pouring yourself a cup of coffee on a Sunday, sitting in your comfy chair, and reading for an hour. Since that time, the volume of medical literature has grown exponentially. More research is being done worldwide, and it is more accessible than in the past. In addition, the average physician receives multiple journals, including throwaway journals, weekly. It is impossible to keep up with the literature anymore, yet when we see the overwhelming pile next to the bed, we feel incompetent as physicians and scientists. After all, we were told ‘if you don’t keep up with the literature, you are not enough’. One colleague of mine was told, ‘if you don’t keep up with the literature, people will die’. What a ridiculous guilt trip. This creates anxiety and frustration for us all. It hits one of our shared personality traits smack in the face – perfectionism.” P18.
Doesn't that sound adorably cosy! (Not the bit about people dying - the bit about sitting down with a cuppa on Sunday morning and being "current" an hour later. Maybe with a cat on one's lap?)

I think the big mistake we make is to even consider bring on top of current literature possible...and it isn't just journals. Conferences, symposia, websites, lectures, webinars, social media etc. etc. Information is proliferating and so much of it is actually helpful...but we are finite creatures!

So I am interested to hear, from vets and non-vets alike, how do you cope with masses of information? How do you "keep up" with the literature?