I often tell my patients to "do their homework" and they look at me as if I were speaking Martian. Isn't homework for students ? and why do patients need to do this ? Isn't the doctor the medical expert ?
I think the problem is that most patients don't know how to read critically. They are intimidated by books and websites, and are worried that they will not understand any of it. They underestimate their own skills, and feel lost when they encounter medical terms.
The good news is that if they are willing to be patient, they will be able to crack the code, and make sense of what their doctor is talking. This is a very valuable skill, which will help them to get better medical care !
Here are some tips on "how to read" intelligently, so you can extract the information you need as efficiently as possible.
I try to tell my patients to read as much as possible about infertility, so they can benefit from the experience and wisdom of the author. This could be an IVF specialist, an embryologist or an expert patient. Most authors are usually wise and experienced, and they have taken the time and trouble to capture what they have learned , so that other people can benefit from his experience.
Reading is the quickest , easiest and most cost effective and time effective way of learning. Life is too short for patients to make mistakes , and we need to learn from those of others .
However , I find that a lot of patients don't do much reading. A few may have a reading disability; others seem to be allergic to reading; others don’t have the reading habit ; and some of them are happy to read , but they don’t know how to read intelligently. They have acquired bad reading habits as a result of cramming school text books. This is problem in India , where knowledge is revered , and children are taught to treat books with respect . They feel that when they open a book, they have to start reading from page 1 , and go sequentially from page 2 – 3 – 4 onwards, until they reach the end; and that the book has to remain clean and pristine , as a mark of respect - after all, how can you deface Saraswati, the Goddess of Learning ? While that book will continue looking new forever, unfortunately it’s not a very efficient way of absorbing the information which the book contains.
This means that while the author may have done an excellent job of condensing and distilling his wisdom into words , unless you take an equally proactive approach , you are not going to be able to imbibe that information , which means the entire purpose of reading the book is lost.
Here are some simple tips which can help you read a book ( and everything which applies for books applies for all digital information as well) much more effectively .
Be selective about what you read. You don’t need to read every website or book Also, just because someone else recommends a book doesn’t mean that it will appeal to you - after all we all have different reading styles, and the reason there are so many sites and books is that you can choose exactly what you prefer.Remember you never need to slavishly read a book from cover to cover - or study every page on a website. You can pick and choose - you are not appearing for an exam !
The purpose of a book is to give you nuggets of wisdom, and you need to mine the book actively to find these. It needs to be an active exploration of the book , and you cannot read it like reading a novel or a newspaper. Please don't be a passive reader - you need to think about what you are reading, why you are reading it, and what information you hope to extract from that book. If you read with this kind of mindset , and try to actively explore the contents of the book, your ability to assimilate its wisdom and to make sure that it sticks in your head is far better.
Make sure you always have a pen or pencil or a marker in your hand when you’re reading the book. You need to be able to annotate the book , to make that book your own. While you should not deface library books, the moment you start marking up your own book , it then becomes your personal property , and this allows you to learn much more from it. Just like the writer has taken a lot of time and trouble in order to put his words down, you need to take the effort to transmute those words into wisdom which you can utilize in your own life.
After underlining the book and making notes , please add that information to the mental model framework within your brain - this helps the information to stick. It's very helpful to share that information with someone else . The best way to learn is to teach ! This could be in the form of a conversation which you have with friends and colleagues, or it could be in the form of a book club , where everyone shares which books they have read and what they have learned from it. It could be in the form of a blog post, which forces you to think about what the book has taught you , and put it down in writing yourself. Writing what you have learned from a book is the best way of making sure that whatever that book has to tell you becomes a part of you , so that the book’s wisdom no longer remains just the author’s - it becomes yours as well !