Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Quoting From Wikipedia On Rounds Is A Bad Idea

The surgical attending was pimping his med students and residents pretty hard in the operating room. Question after question he stumped the operating team. The students had the unfortunate luck of traditionally being asked first, with the least amount of time to think of an answer. Then the torture would move up the ranks until the chief resident was in the hot seat. I was highly entertained, plus I learned a lot too from their suffering.

As the case continued, the attending started a new question, naturally with the medical students. However this time, one of the students almost appeared giddy. He knew the answer to this question. He could barely contain himself as he elatedly quoted some statistical figure back to the attending. Since the question was obviously too easy, the attending pursued the same subject for more details. "From which study did this result originate?" he asked the student. "I'm not sure, " replied the student. "I read about it on Wikipedia."

You could have heard a pin drop after that. The attending turned dusky red under his mask. "Wikipedia? Really? Are you serious? You have the nerve to stand here and talk to me about Wikipedia? What did Sabiston say about this condition? Did you read the Archives of Surgery from 2009 that published the study?" The tirade went on and on. I could actually see the student shrink in stature.

I almost felt sorry for him. The answer was right. The reference was wrong. Wikipedia may be used by millions of people and contributed to the demise of encyclopedias and textbooks, but in medicine, it is not considered a prestigious and reliable source like peer reviewed journal articles. The truth was understood by everybody in the room. There will be no quoting Wikipedia to this attending.

No comments:

Post a Comment