Thursday, October 20, 2011

Why I Write

Why I WriteThe National Writing Project (NWP) is celebrating the National Day on Writing this year  partly through the “Why I Write” project, a laudatory effort to be sure.

They’ve garnered thousands of tweets, tons of essays, and held lots of interviews with famous writers.

As a long-time fellow of the NWP I feel it my duty to put forward a response of my own. Here ya go.

I write in my work. I write to teach. I write to communicate. I write to think. I write to feel. I write, sometimes, I think, to avoid talking. Mostly I write because, hey, that’s what I do.

Those short sentences are cop-outs, and you deserve more.

I write most often to communicate.

I probably write more words in e-mails each year than I do in prose pieces, and I suspect many others are in the same boat. E-mails communicate, pure and simple.

At its essence, all writing is communicative, even if that communication is just for yourself. But what I’m talking about here is simple communication from one person to one or more others. It’s the “What do you think?” “Here’s what I think,” and “Let’s do this or that” kind of communication.


Less often I write to explain, to teach, to clarify.

Over the years I’ve written many hundreds of individual pieces—books, articles, blogs, white papers, brochures, pamphlets, all kinds of stuff. All of them, as near as I can remember, were aimed at educating readers.

One in particular, though, did more than that. It was my first published article, “Let the Family In,” published in Nursing ’83.That article was educational, yes, but it was also cathartic.

Sometimes I don't write, it writes itself.

Cathartic writing doesn’t happen that often, really. It’s an odd experience. I swear that I didn’t write that article at all, that it just came out. Poured out, really, onto an old IBM Selectric typewriter sitting placidly on a tiny college-type desk in a crowded bedroom.

I remember editing here and there, certainly, but the piece just flowed, as Linda Richman would say, “like buttah.”

Does that explain why that piece was the highest scoring piece of its kind for the journal that year, why it became for more than ten years thereafter the sample the journal editors sent to all prospective writers for that type of column? Nope, it does not.

It’s lovely to think about, I’m proud of it, but really, I didn’t do it. Something inside me did.

And that’s the most wonderful kind of writing, it seems to me, the kind that comes out whether you like it or not. I’ve had that experience a few times in my career, but nowhere near enough.

So maybe, just maybe, I write to have another of those deep cleanses, to have a piece stream from my soul like smoke from a fine cigar.

It’s not the same experience as having saved a life, but man, it’s close.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

6 Electronic Whiteboard Activities for Healthcare Educators

Electronic whiteboards are becoming more prevalent in healthcare education, and rightly so. They’re wonderful tools for engaging students and helping them learn the many intricacies of anatomy, physiology, and many other topics in the health curriculum.

Here’s a half-dozen activities you might want to consider when you use a whiteboard with healthcare students.
Activity #1: Demonstrate blood flow through heart

Project on your whiteboard a blank cutaway view of the heart. Then have students use whiteboard markers to trace blood flow along these or other routes:

  • Upper body to lungs

  • Lower body to lungs

  • Right lung to aorta

  • Left lung to aorta

  • Right ventricle to left ventricle

Activity #2: Calculate dosages

Have students use the whiteboard markers to show their calculations for whatever dosage scenario you give them. Here are a few scenarios to get you started.

  • The physician orders 30mg Celexa by mouth. The tablets you have are 20mg each. How many tablets will you administer?

  • The patient has been told to take 50mg of Amitriptyline, but the pharmacy gave her tablets of 25mg each. How many tablets should she take?

  • A pediatric patient needs 50mg of Amoxicillin syrup. The bottle indicates that there are 125mg per 5mL. How much syrup will you administer?

  • Your patient needs 50mg of Solu-Cortef intramuscularly. The drug is available in 100mg/2ml solution. How much will you administer?

Activity #3: Identify parts of a business letter

Project a box the approximate size and shape of an 8½ × 11 paper. Have students draw boxes where each of the following parts of a business letter should be placed.

  • Heading

  • Inside address

  • Salutation

  • Date

  • Body

  • Complimentary close

  • Signature

  • Superscription

Activity #4: Build medical terms

Give students the meaning of a medical term, and then have them build the term on the whiteboard. Here are a few examples.

  • Removal of the larynx (laryng/ectomy)

  • Tumor of the nervous system (neur/oma)

  • Rapid breathing (hyper/pnea)

  • Surgical opening into the tympanum (tympan/otomy)

  • Surgical creation of an opening of the jejunum through the stomach wall (jejun/ostomy)

For more examples, check your medical terminology text, which I hope is Barb Gylys's Medical Terminology Systems, or Simplified, or her newest, Express. Or perhaps Sharon Eagle's Medical Terminology in a Flash! But I digress.

Activity #5: Break down medical terms

Give students a medical term to write on the whiteboard. Then have them break the word down into its component parts. Here are a few terms to get you started. (Answers in parentheses.)

  • Gangliectomy (gangliectomy/ectomy)

  • Intrathecal (intra/thec/al)

  • Laryngoscope (laryng/o/scope)

  • Dermatologist (dermat/o/logist)

  • Osteochondroma (osteo/chondr/oma)

Activity #6: Sequence steps in a procedure

Set up a drag-and-drop activity, if your whiteboard software offers one, and write the steps to a procedure out of order. Then have students put the steps into the correct order. Don’t be afraid to leave out steps. You’ll want the students to be able to place whatever steps are offered into the proper sequence to make sure that they fully understand the concepts involved.

>>> Do you have other activities you’d like to share? Use the Comment box to help other faculty using electronic whiteboards.