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Doodling To Succeed

Updated: Sep 9, 2019

My name is Katy, I'm a third year EM/IM resident at Jefferson Health Northeast in Philadelphia, PA. I've always had a hard time sitting still, and focusing on one topic for very long has never been my strong suit; my restlessness makes Emergency Medicine a perfect fit for me. These are pretty common qualities in EM providers, who use their ADHD to their advantage when running a busy department and taking care of multiple sick patients at once. As physicians in general however, as a part of our oath we've committed to life-long learning, and that often takes place in the form of lectures and conferences. It is one thing to sit through a lecture, and another thing entirely to absorb the information presented and bring in back to incorporate it into our practices. I have always been a visual personal, and as an undergraduate student often found myself zoning out, and doodling in the margins of my note books rather than paying attention in class. In medical school I found a way to combine my doodling with my note taking, by making storyboards of the lectures I needed to force myself to pay attention to in order to succeed. I found a way to combine my visual learning style with my inability to keep still, by continuously writing and drawing and creating. With this method not only did I find I could better retain the information, but I also would leave with a tangible, finished product I could hold in my hands that made me feel like I had truly accomplished something with my time.

I have continued this practice throughout didactics of residency, and have shared my note-taking style with a large audience of students, residents, and other health care professionals on social media. We all have different styles of learning, but many of us out there are visual learners, and to be a successful student you must find a way to capitalize on the learning style that works best for you as an individual. You do not have to be an artist to create visual notes; you just need to have the will to create, and use whatever you come up with to help you achieve your goals. My hope is that from reading this post you'll be inspired to explore a different way of learning, and that if you too identify as a visual learner, that you may adapt this way of note taking to help you retain information and be the best health care provider you can be for your patients and your students in the future.

Author: Katy Hanson, PGY3 EM/IM

Residency: Jefferson Northeast

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