Thursday, March 15, 2012

The Stack

Medical folk, you know what I'm referring to: that ever-growing stack of journals that we'll all sit down and carefully read through "someday."

My stack of journals is about 3 inches high at this point.  When I am in the groove of efficiency, I take the time to flip through each journal when it arrives, tear out any articles that look interesting, and recycle the rest.  When the deluge of patient care and teaching and research and meetings overtakes me, the journals pile up unopened.

The Stack taunts me for my negligence.  The Stack generates guilt.  The Stack hisses "you can't keep up, you'll never keep up."

The Stack is right.  I can't keep up.  None of us can.  The medical literature machine cranks out hundreds of articles a week.  I do not have the hundreds of hours it would take to read even a fraction of them.  Accepting those facts is part of being a 21st century physician.  I don't want to abandon my effort to stay up-to-date with the literature, but I need a new strategy.  Piles of journals that only accumulate dust aren't helping anyone.

I don't mean to suggest that journals are unnecessary - far from it.  I just need a different way to digest them.  I do a decent job of keeping up with Twitter, RSS feeds, and e-mail "breaking news" alerts.   I also use DynaMed and other evidence-based tools on a daily basis.

While I respect those who like reading a paper journal, this electronic effort is working much better for me.  I'm usually one of the first of my colleagues to know about a new study or a practice change recommendation, and I'm adept at quickly answering point-of-care questions using my electronic tools.

So, I'm done.  Off go those unread journals to the recycle bin, and back I go to iGoogle, Twitter, InfoPOEMs, and the blogosphere.

I hereby declare myself free from The Stack.

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