- Department of Neurosurgery, Maastricht University Medical Center, The Netherlands
Pieter L. Kubben
Department of Neurosurgery, Maastricht University Medical Center, The Netherlands
DOI:10.4103/2152-7806.109461Copyright: © 2013 Kubben PL This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.
How to cite this article: Kubben PL. Why physicians might want to learn computer programming. Surg Neurol Int 22-Mar-2013;4:30
How to cite this URL: Kubben PL. Why physicians might want to learn computer programming. Surg Neurol Int 22-Mar-2013;4:30. Available from: http://sni.wpengine.com/surgicalint_articles/why-physicians-might-want-to-learn-computer-programming/
How long does it take to become a physician? At least 6-7 years in most countries. Then, after finishing medical education, it takes another 3-6 years to do a medical specialization. Now, as a comparison: How long does it take to become a computer programmer? The answer is 3-4 years for a professional programmer. An enthusiastic amateur can grasp the basics in less time.
This short introduction is not meant to bash computer programmers. Good programming is a skill in itself and requires practice, just like any other skill. But for obvious reasons it makes sense to state that the learning path toward being a clinically experienced physician is longer than a path toward being a computer programmer. Second, it is hard to have some kind of “do it yourself” medical training because the associated responsibilities do not allow that. It is not hard at all to buy/download a book on computer programming, or watch an online video tutorial, and get some hands-on experience. Therefore, in my opinion, it does make sense to teach a physician how to do computer programming. Let me tell you my story…
So, why learn computer programming? First, because it is fun if you like to combine creativity, puzzling, and having a useful result in the end. Second, because it can help to boost your career: The results can be a great business card that is spread automatically. You prove your ability to translate ideas into results. There are many other ways to do that, but this is one of them. And expecting an even higher dependency on information technology in the future, which might be worth the effort, because we do not want technicians to decide how we do our job. But somebody has to talk to them. Preferably somebody who (partially) understands their language. They would neither understand yours, nor will they understand how things go in daily practice. Three, because if you scratch your own itch, it is likely that other people may have that itch too. They will be interested in what you have, whether that is a weblog with information (no programming knowledge required), a simple webpage, or an app. Feel free to charge money if you think your service is worth that, but keep in mind that less people will use your product then. Work out a (business) model that works for you, your service, and your career. And realize that if you needed to hire a programmer, the whole project would not even get off the ground. As physicians, we master the content part. If we can get some skills on how to distribute this content, we have a winning combination. And with modern webbased technology, the latter is neither difficult nor expensive.
There is one thing that you should avoid, and that is doing nothing now and complaining later “I had that idea, and if I had done that, I would be successful now”. Such “ifs” do not count, they just demonstrate a lack of character.