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February 12, 2010 News 5 Comments

Of Mice and…Ducks

We recently left a long road behind us here in our little neck of the trenches. After years of what seemed like almost interminable “training,” one of my staff was caught adding a new network printer to her tablet PC — without any help!

Those of you reading this little saga are all pretty techno-hep and probably don’t think too terribly much of someone performing such a relatively minor and rather simple task. However, here it was celebrated with hoots and haws and all manner of revelry. You see, this was a signpost that we had left a years-long trail behind and were now embarking upon a different path — completely duck-free.

When we started our new, little high-tech, rural pediatric office back in 2006, I had a staff of three: a nurse, a receptionist, and a medical assistant. The receptionist knew just enough on the computer to be dangerous, my nurse didn’t even know how to turn a computer on (literally,) and, during one of our first group computer discussions, my M.A. asked if we would have to use a one of those “ducks, you know, those things you click” with our pen tablets.

We never ended up using any ducks, though we did enjoy a recurring chuckle over that comment. We did begin, from that day, a very long, slow path toward computer literacy which, at times, seemed almost interminable. It began with the basics.

One of the first tasks I assigned was quite simple: play solitaire. They were each given a pen tablet PC and told to take it home and practice playing simple games just to get the hang of using the pen or the TrackPoint. (We kept the focus off of ducks.)

That was a pretty fun way to start engaging their computing experience. Once they had some cursor awareness, we moved on into simple messaging using an in-house messaging system. E-mail was an easy extension from there and then we clicked right on into full-blown patient scheduling, sans paper and pen backup. So far, everything was just ducky.

Zoom ahead a bit on the time continuum and, after a few fits and failed starts with full-blown EHR usage, we became “paperless” and left our crumbled, old paper chart crutches for good. (I say that with only a momentary hesitation as, honestly, there are still days when I just want to grab a pen and scribble a couple of quick notes the old-fashioned way, committed geek though I am.)

Full EHR usage doesn’t mean we are free of performance struggles related to basic PC usage, just that I felt it was time we made the leap. Watching my nurse has, at times, been almost painful; she’s done pediatrics via pen and paper for 30 years. She is a sharp cookie, but PC-ing just doesn’t come naturally to her. She is never one to shrink from a challenge, though, so she continues to plug away. (She is the true salt of the earth and one of the greatest blessings of my life.)

Anyway, the other day I noticed she had a new printer in her “Devices and Printers” folder. I had recently upgraded an older printer, but I hadn’t yet had the chance to add it to her tablet. I asked our office manager (a PC-savvy youngster) if she had added that and she said my nurse had done it all by herself, without asking anyone! I looked over and saw my nurse grinning the biggest, proudest grin and I knew: we were officially beyond the era of the duck!

From the trenches…

“Not the cry, but the flight of the wild duck, leads the flock to fly and follow.” – Chinese proverb


Dr. Gregg Alexander is a grunt-in-the-trenches pediatrician and geek. His personal manifesto home page…er..blog…yeh, that’s it, his blog – and he – can be reached through http://madisonpediatric.com or doc@madisonpediatric.com.

Comments 5
  • Well there’s an exception to the rule everywhere, some “ducks” work well with pen tablets:) I couldn’t resist the pun here, but the era of the “duck” is not completely done I hope. I’m still looking for that big flock to lead around:)

    Nice article and very descriptive of what happens in the real world as far as adapting and learning, as you have people at every level of computer knowledge and it doesn’t happen overnight and with a table I agree it is best to spend a little time playing around and getting the feel of it before going into pro”duck”tion. I did that a few years ago when I got my first tablet too.

  • I’m not sure I get this “duck” thing, but I do appreciate the very real narrative of Gregg’s journey. I hope others and his “peers” are reading this, too!

  • That is a great story! I work with docs of all ages and this is a very challenging time for docs in the twilight of their careers! But, I love these moments when they have success and see the potential and begin to believe that they can do ‘this computer thing’!

  • If I’d have been thinking, I would have dedicated this post to Barbara, a real Duck and true Medical Quack!

  • Yes I do need a sense of humor with my last name and being I am not clinical I figured I was a Quack, thus the name of the blog:)

    This made me think back to my years in sales where I had a potential client call in after I had visited them oh at least a year prior and the lady telling the receptionist that she couldn’t remember the name of the sales representative who came in and had lost my card, but she did say that the representative she chatted with was female and thought she was a bird. The receptionist knew exactly where to refer that call, so the mice/duck association in the post here made perfect sense to me:)

    Thanks again and I’ll work hard at keeping the “quack” reputation alive:)

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