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All they need is calm assertive leadership ...

Posted Sep 13 2008 2:00am
Accept it/undermined
Your opinion/your justification
Malice/utter weakness
No toleration - Invade
Committed/enraged/admit it
Don't condescend/don't even disagree
You've suffered then, now suffer unto me.

Obsession - take another look.
Remember - every chance you took.
Decide- either live with me
Or give up - any thought you had of being free

SLIPKNOT - The Nameless

We just got a new dog, a Rhodesian Ridgeback. She is a beautiful dog. She is both sweet and feisty. She is a puppy and, as such, has all the puppy traits. To break her of all these traits, we attend puppy class and read all sorts of opinionated books on puppy training. We have even watch, on occasion, Ceasar Millan. What I have learned is that dogs have a pack mentality. They look for a pack leader, and try to improve their position within the pack. As I work on my own family pack and being the pack leader within my home, I couldn't help but recognize the similarities of the dogs' approach to a pack and residents' approach to residency.

It is July. The month that all residencies have the transition. The Spring residents are experienced and polished. They understand their roles and are comfortable their position. This is in total contrast to the Summer residents. They have yet to figure out their role. Like dogs in a pack, they are all jockeying for position. As an attending, I am suppose to be the pack leader. I find humor in this battle for position. Sometimes, they challenge one another. On occasion, someone in the pack challenge the pack leader. How the pack leader approaches this confrontation determines his/her status in the pack and can not be taken lightly.

In training my dog, I have learned some training techniques that are different from when I had my first dog. The choker chain seems to be out. There is no more rubbing your dogs nose in their accidents. Now, the trend is crate training and the kinder gentler pack leader. The overall goal is still to assert your dominance in a less painful but assertive way.

As a residency pack leader, I can't follow Ceaser Millan's fulfillment formula of exercise, discipline, and affection. Although it would be fun, the ACGME may frown on it. Ceasar does have some advice that can be parlayed into residency education. He recommends setting rules, boundaries, and limitations. Along with being consistent and fair, these can be effective techniques in teaching/training adult learners.

In the past, if a resident would question or challenge his/her attending, s/he would be handed an embarrassing beat down comparable to a WWE smack down. Many would use their favorite tools of fear and humiliation. In the new age of the educator, things have changed. Socratic questioning is losing favor and may go the way of the choker chain. Although the techniques have changed, the ultimate goals have not. As a dog trainer, our goal is to have an obedient dog that follows commands, doesn't make a mess of the house, and is kind to others. As a physician educator, our goal is to produce a competent physician/surgeon who has the needed skills, is considerate of others, and understands his/her limitations.

Calm assertive leadership is Ceaser's recommendation to the pack leader. Following this rule is tough. When the puppy nips at your toes or the resident questions your treatment method, you just want to smack them, figuratively speaking. I like to tell my residents, "my pimp hand is strong." I know this is not the way to approach it, but the urge is there. In the end, I have to fight that urge and smile. Instead of the physical punishment, I have to use guidance, reinforcement, and occasionally a treat. Eventually, they will learn, and if they don't, I could always just take them to the pound.

“Patience and perseverance have a magical effect before which difficulties disappear and obstacles vanish.”
~ John Quincy Adams
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