Motivation from the Marathon

Watching the horrific Boston footage yesterday, I experienced a flood of emotions…shock, concern for a neighbor who trains on our road, incredulity that someone would do this deliberately, and admiration for the selflessness all the brave Americans who courageously and unselfishly rushed to the aid of fellow citizens. I also felt pride in the obvious professionalism of the first responders, law enforcement personnel, and, of course, the healthcare providers who are even now working to save lives and restore health to those whose only mistake was being at the wrong place at the wrong time.

Boston bombing victim

Boston bombing victim (Photo credit: Ninian Reid)

Most of my students aspire to careers in healthcare.  Yesterday’s events provided a teachable moment for those who are struggling to master new and complex terminology and to understand complex processes.  For them, the road to knowledge seems long, and they sometimes wonder why I insist that they learn things “by heart.”  They ask, “Can’t I just look this up if I need to know it?”  Ah, children of the age of Google!  “I’ve seen doctors in the ER looking at the computer to find what they need!” they insist.

So today I took a moment at the beginning of each class to elicit their feelings about yesterday’s events.  Everyone had seen some of the footage, and several shared feelings similar to mine. Then I asked them,”What do you think it was like for the doctors and nurses who went to work yesterday expecting a regular day…or at least a regular Boston Marathon day?”  The students pondered that for a bit.

“What do you think the atmosphere was like at Mass General’s ER?”

operating room

operating room (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

“Do you think there was time to look up the terminology they needed in a book?  To check out the name of a damaged body structure? To ask the radiologist to explain his/her report in ‘plain English’?  How do you think the personnel were communicating with one another?”

Suddenly students realized that the terminology that we had studied just yesterday—types of fractures in A&P I, components of blood in A&P II–were precisely the words that were being used in Boston’s ER’s and operating rooms, allowing swift, accurate exchange of information and saving real people.  My beginning students recognized that our classwork could be used in their futures to do the same for others in need.

Surgical neck fracture of humerus

So we settled in to learn the names of our bones and all the bewildering bumps and crannies on them.  We set our minds to understanding how blood does…or doesn’t…clot in response to an injury.

Somehow it all seemed more relevant with the specter of injured limbs and bloody sidewalks freshly etched in our minds. No one needed to be persuaded that owning knowledge is owning something of value.  Everyone was motivated to meet the achievable challenge of learning anatomy, because that knowledge is a first step toward belonging to a group…the extraordinary group that helps and heals in the face of disaster.


2 comments on “Motivation from the Marathon

  1. Brian says:

    Mimi (my incredible mother-in-law) always said, “We’re for others.” There’s a lot of wrenching trauma in that. B

  2. kencasey99 says:

    Your discipline of anatomy sometimes seems more urgent to know than religion or philosophy. I still contend that there are philosophical and theological emergencies. If we don’t have clear terms to understand the meaning of our lives and nuance enough to deal with crises we will wander in terra incognita.

    I joke to my students that my office is like the old Maytag repairman commercial–very few people come to me when their philosophy of life breaks down but I sit there waiting.

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