February 28, 2023

Knowing when to reach out for some help – January 2022

The importance of reaching out when you need help

There is a famous song Tom Koinis mentioned to me a little while ago. It was sung by Porter Wagoner in 1962, and the title is “I’ve Enjoyed as Much of This as I Can Stand.” Though the song was written about the singer’s sadness with meeting an old lover, I think the basic sentiment of frustration can be extrapolated to other predicaments as well.


Recently, a colleague approached me because of challenges due to a particular teaching assignment. This provider was having a hard time connecting with her learner, and this caused some tension between them both. I was surprised when she approached me because this provider is an excellent teacher who I have watched and mentored for years.


Being the appointed  Duke Primary Care teaching champion, I figured I would listen to her concerns, meet with the student to get her viewpoint,  then quickly figure out what was happening. . After hearing both sides, I thought a meeting amongst the three of us would be a better plan so everything could be out in the open. But an hour into a subsequent meeting with all three of us, I determined this was more complicated than I had anticipated. With some exasperation, we then turned to the professor overseeing the student course curriculum and explained what we thought was happening. This professor then conferred with the student to try to solve the issues leading to the discord.


Eventually, we concluded the provider and student had two different approaches to learning. There were also some communication challenges and possibly some cultural differences that were impeding the student’s ability to succeed in this clinic setting. So, after several weeks of discussion, collaboration, and brainstorming, we made a decision to reassign the student to a different preceptor so that the student could complete her coursework on time.


The preceptor seemed to be distressed by the situation, but I reassured her that she did the right thing by reaching out and asking for help. There are times when random student assignments result in an unsuccessful pairing, and we all feel that if that occurs,  changes need to be made promptly.


I think both the preceptor and student could have been humming Porter Wagoner’s tune. Thanks to our intervention, the student is successfully completing her coursework. The preceptor has benefited as well and is no longer part of an unrewarding teaching dyad. While I know both individuals were disappointed in this outcome, I tried to reassure them that, in fact, this was possibly the best result that could have happened.


If any of you ever find yourself in a frustrating teaching situation, please reach out for some help and assistance so you won’t have to sing the ballad either.