You are just beginning your residency, and your faculty expects you to dictate all the cases on the CT list, more than twenty. But, you are as slow as molasses, having just recently picked up a dictaphone. Unfortunately, this phenomenon is not uncommon. Faculty often forget what it is like to have recently started. Having the tools to read cases faster at the beginning is just not possible.
However, take heart. You have to begin somewhere. Most of us are not speed demons from day one. So, instead of worrying about this particular situation, it is much more critical to know how to set goals so that you can continually improve your speed. Each successive time you dictate, you need to feel more comfortable reading each case. And, eventually, you can run more adeptly through increasing numbers of cases in a shorter time.
In the past, I have written an article to help you out with increasing your knowledge to pick up speed called: How To Pick Up Speed In Radiology. Check it out to get some essential advice. But today, I am going to give you some guidelines for setting up specific goals to increase your speed. First, I will talk about what to avoid. Then, I will discuss what you should watch for from your experienced faculty. And, finally, I will go through the specifics of creating goals for increasing speed.
Do Not Deviate From The Search Pattern!
What is the worst way you can read cases faster in radiology? Cutting corners. But, I see it in residents all the time. They feel rushed, and what is the first rule that goes? Well, either they no longer search through all the fields of the film, or they skip looking at an organ system. Either way, these residents are destined to miss many critical findings as they begin to pick up speed, but in an unhealthy way. Training yourself to deviate from a search pattern is a recipe for disaster. If you cut corners as a resident, you will continue the same patterns even after you graduate. Learn the right way early on!
Learn The Tricks Of The Pros
Who should you learn from to read cases faster? Medical students rotating through radiology or attendings in other specialties? Of course not! The answer is simple, the radiology pros, of course! Learn from the best, your faculty.
So, you want to make sure to watch the people that already read cases quickly and accurately, the seasoned radiology veterans. If you are reading CTs, for instance, sit down with the body imagers. You are bound to learn ways to cover organ systems with more accuracy in a shorter amount of time. One example would be to check out how they scroll through the cases. You may discover that running through the bowel is easier if you look at the contiguous intestine on each successive slice rather than randomly looking at the small and large bowel within the abdomen. By watching what the experienced professionals do, you can pick up additional tips such as this one to speed to your reads and search patterns.
Pick A Number And Increase Each Day
For those of you want to be weightlifters, you cannot start by bench pressing 350 lbs. That is a dangerous recipe for hurting yourself. Instead, most weightlifters set a long term goal to lift 350 pounds eventually, but increase little by little, setting daily and weekly goals. Just like that weightlifter, you need to set a long-term goal and then set shorter-term goals to slowly increase the number of cases in a day. Don’t overdo it at the beginning and strain yourself!
Let’s say that you are starting to read mammography. How many studies should you read? Well, try to pick a long term goal of reading the same number of cases that your attendings read in a day. So, say your breast faculty read around 100 mammograms each in a day. But, when you are starting, you can only read ten mammograms reasonably accurately and quickly. Then, each day, aim to complete a few more than the last. You may not realize it ay first, but you are building mental connections and eye tracing patterns each time you look at a case. And, the more studies that you look at the stronger the connections. Eventually, it will seem effortless as you scroll through the images. However, it takes time to build this skill.
To Read Cases Faster, It’s Not A Sprint. It’s A Marathon!
Given the pressures of daily work in radiology, you need to run through lots of cases in a rapid amount of time. However, it’s not possible to begin to read accurately and quickly without starting slowly and deliberately. And, usually, it involves starting at a crawl, graduating to a walk, moving to a jog, and only then competing in a marathon.
Remember. As a resident, you have time to build up speed. So, don’t rush it. Habits that form today can last a career. Don’t let them be the wrong ones!