Not long ago the internet was captivated by the video clip of a physician using a wine glass to teach percussion. The display elicited a sense of nostalgia and long-lost wisdom. The clip put 20th and 21st century medicine into stark contrast.
But when was the last time you used percussion to make a diagnosis? Predictably, every smartypants in the audience has an answer.
“When I was an intern and only overnight doctor at the 1200 bed county hospital there was this patient…”
“Let me tell you about the time when…“
“We had a case where….“
I have no doubt that you did. I did. We’ve all got stories. But stories are, by nature, an imperfect representation of reality.
And the stories that suggest percussion is a deal breaking part of our toolkit are more entertaining and exceptional than real. You have to look hard to find cases where, during the day-to-day work of a physician, percussion represents a pivotal diagnostic maneuver in medical decision making.
What’s most concerning is that while few use (let alone have the skill to teach) percussion with any level of proficiency we’re afraid to concede that it’s no longer part of our everyday routine. For some we’re petrified that clinical diagnosis is no longer dependent on our hands. And for good reason. Over a few generations percussion and other bedside maneuvers have defined us as a profession.
But medicine is changing quickly. We need to appreciate new defining professional skills. We need to be honest about what we do and why. That starts with understanding where, when, and how we fit between the patient and the machine.
Acknowledging what’s real and what isn’t should serve as the starting point in our redefinition.
If you like this post you might like the 33 charts MD Future Archives. It’s all the stuff written about the future of doctors. And actually, every 33c post has tags at the bottom that will guide you to related writing.
Modified image originally via Otis Historical Archives Nat’l Museum of Health & Medicine on Wikipedia.