Monday, May 9, 2011

The Flip Side of "Experience"

Being a younger professional, it is not uncommon to have a patient ask your staff “how much experience does the doctor have?” or “how long has he been in practice?”  One would think that after twelve years of post-secondary education, not only would you have the knowledge and experience necessary to treat patients but more importantly, you would have earned the respect and trust from patients as it relates to your skills and ability. However, when you step back, you begin to understand that asking about experience is not an unusual question and that perhaps, you would ask the very same question if it were you or your own child seeking treatment. It makes sense that doctors practicing for a number of years, have in all likelihood seen it all and know it all. However, can too much experience be a bad thing? Is 15 years really better than 5 years?

One of the dangers of having too much experience is getting caught up in one school of thought or following a particular ideology. This is quite common when it comes to the medical and dental profession. Often we hear, “I’ve been doing it this way for years, and that’s the way it is supposed to be done!” Most professionals undergo extensive training which is great. The problem arises when the training becomes outdated and in a way, not practical. If you consider that most textbooks are several years old by the time they go into print, and that most professors are older veterans, you quickly realize that many of the techniques learned during a professional’s training, although proven, are usually outdated and may not be the most practical by today’s standards or expectations. 

The advantage of “not having as much experience” means that you are not set in your ways and that you most likely have not developed strong opinions or old ways of doing things just because “that’s how they’ve always been done”.  I guess the point is that it requires a certain kind of naivety to think outside the box and a certain amount of confidence to try taking risks to better our patient’s treatment and experience when under our care.

So the next time someone tries to sell you on experience...think twice or better yet, make sure to get a second opinion!