Teaching Drawing Skills to Other Surgeons

Drawing has been a very positive influence on my development as a surgeon. Naturally, I wanted to share that with others in our Division. The premise being that visual notes are useful for learning, communication and medical documentation.

The plan was to have two medical illustrators and a staff/mentor lead a workshop on visual note-taking for our colleagues. When those three could not do it at the last minute, I was Plan D! I cobbled something together and here’s what it looked like:

Warm up exercise 

  • First, draw from memory and then, from a reference object

Discussed the question “Why Draw?”

Discussed the notion that “I can’t draw!”

  • Emphasized that this session is not about drawing in the artistic sense but rather, visual note-taking.
  • Shared drawings/visual notes from some of my residents and my own sketchbook, which gave them an idea that it doesn’t always have to be representative or artistic. It just has to be a visual reminder for the draw-er.
  • Gave pointers on what to draw. I made up an acronym “STAIRS” just to be cute.
    • Sutures
    • Traction (e.g. traction sutures, retractors)
    • Anatomy
    • Instruments and hands
    • Relationships (i.e. between anatomical landmarks)
    • Symbols

paris-louvre-marble-stairs

  • You might ask what does “Symbols” mean? It is just a way of representing common objects, like one would use simple icons. Scissors could be drawn as:  scissors-128

Answered the question, “Why not just take photos or watch videos on YouTube?”

  • This is a very good question from a senior colleague. I think the difference here is that there is a very active component to drawing. As you trace out the anatomy, you experience the image very differently than merely looking at it.

Finally, we ended with drawing exercise.

  • I chose a YouTube video of a kidney transplantation. Not only is the anatomy clear and well-defined, it can also be the most satisfying operation to perform (I recall all the times that patients literally cried out of happiness when their new kidney made urine).
  • We divided the surgery into 12 parts and each of us were assigned a step to draw
  • Watched the video and drew our assigned step
  • Presented our own drawing (in sequential order)
  • I was so proud of everyone at the end, when we had a full panel from start to finish of this operation! It proved that they all can draw!

Overall, it was an enjoyable experience to share this with my colleagues. I don’t know if it will change the hardcore skeptics but I think it made a few consider drawing in the future. A week later, I saw one of my co-workers make a small sketch in his clinic notes for the first time and it made me smile.

-LCTL

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