Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Learning to Drive

I have helped teach four kids to drive a car. I have trained sixty otolaryngologists to operate. Both are daunting tasks that I have taken seriously.

In learning to drive, the kids were always straining at the bit. They wanted to go a bit faster, a bit more enthusiastically, and a bit more carelessly than I would have prefered. I would turn off the radio, confiscate the cell phones, forbid distractions, and talk about the finer points of driving a car as they drove.

As we moved through the kids, the state laws became more strict about mentored driving, night driving, and not having non-family members as passengers. I agreed with the changes.

The kids, of course, thought I was nuts. They were ready to drive well before I was ready to let them.

"C'mon, Dad! I have been driving for a whole month! Let me take the car!"

I would try to explain my anxiety by drawing on my experience teaching surgery:

When a new resident starts training, he or she spends a lot of time observing. This goes on for many months. He or she begins by performing simple portions of procedures under absolutely strict observation.

As they become competent, the residents are allowed more and more responsibility, still under the watchful eye. Even when they are almost ready to graduate and begin to practice on their own, they are scrutinized, evaluated, and corrected. It is a long process.

My point to the kids was always this:

Driving a car is a lot like learning to be a surgeon. No matter what you might believe, you begin by being completely incompetent; neither driving nor surgery is intuitive. You learn incrementally and develop skills. You find out how to get out of jams and tight spots. You learn to anticipate what might happen and make adjustments. You develop the ability to to plan three or four steps ahead.

The biggest difference? In surgery, the training takes five to seven years and you can only harm one person at a time. Why should driving a car, with so much potential to destroy so many more lives simultaneously, take any less time to learn?

The kids would just shake their heads.

7 comments:

rlbates said...

I'm sure they did. Did you get any eye-rolls along with the head shakes?

Bruce said...

I'm not certain...I was too busy gritting my teeth at the time...

Driving Instructor UK Driving School said...

I like the way you compared learning to drive with becoming a surgeon, it totally fits what I experience daily as a driving instructor, always think they are ready to do it on there own, when they are not quite there yet.

Frank Drackman said...

Try learning to drive a Stick when you're left handed. Seems like it'd be an advantage with your dominant foot workin the clutch, but its not. Train any lefthanded surgeons? Thats why I went into Anesthesia, that and the 30 hr workweek.

Bruce said...

I LOVE training left-handed surgeons! We can work across the table, each able to maximize the use of our dominant hand. One of my favorite faculty members in training was left-handed.

A bigger problem is training drivers who happen to have two left feet.

Dragonfly said...

More similarities....people don't always trust people trained overseas in either, and you may need to retrain or jump through hurdles to get certified....and people will never understand why you do certain things strangely....

Bruce said...

Dragonfly, so true, yet...

Here in the US, when we are REALLY sick or REALLY need to get to the airport, many of our finest doctors and fastet cab drivers trained overseas.