For my Cardiology Service clinical rotation, we were asked to read five journal articles. Five. FIVE!?
A piece of me died inside as I took in that page of the syllabus. Finding journal articles has always been difficult for me, and reading them, with their mega-techno-blabble analytical lingo and enough jargon to feed a cattle herd, I could never wrap my mind around the big picture, let alone the meaning of individual sentences. I had always found journal articles long-winded, complicated, stressful, and a complete waste of my time when considering the immense work I had to invest for such an itty bitty gain. Did I mention these were cardiology articles? Only one of the most complicated topics … ever. Plus, I had to give a presentation on the findings of one of them, which meant I actually had to kinda sorta understand it.
Between you and me, I wanted to run from the rotation the moment I read that requirement.
So, one Sunday night I had to face reality: I needed to read five journal articles by the next Friday with comments for each and prepare one for presentation. I grabbed my water bottle, plopped my grumpy butt in a chair on my outdoor walk, lit a candle, and started searching. This time I remembered to log into the school's library before searching, and, after hitting my first "human" article, I investigated the filter options that allowed narrowing the searches down to only full text online, free, veterinary, peer-reviewed articles.
Then I started reading.
The first article I found was FASCINATING! It talked about this gene that works with calcium (who cares what gene right now) found in German Shepard dogs that is expressed minimally in those with inherited ventricular arrhythmias (that is to say, "whose heartbeats are funky"). The researchers also found that there were differences in the gene expression from cell to cell within the same animal. Next thing I knew, I had hashed out a collection of the study's findings and speculated about what different treatment options this meant for the future. I was so inspired! Could we use this gene to screen breeding animals for the anomaly? Could we find a means of targeting just those particularly abnormal cells in affected animals without harming the rest? I wanted to know more!
Between you and me, I had a personal promise with myself that I would never have to read another journal article upon graduation: I would do CE (continuing education programs) and listen to seminars, but reading these articles would be a thing of my academic past… like standardized exams. Now, I realize the articles are organized in a pattern that allows you to easily skip over the mumbo-jumbo analytical jargon until you are interested in investigating the validity of the study. I have also realized that I have, finally, just maybe, built enough of a foundation to understand the major concepts being investigated, and I have had enough training to know where to look up those bits I do not recall. It is like you finally learn enough to weed out what is not important, so you can find the few flowers of new knowledge hiding inside the endless text. This new reality has certainly taken reading articles from a scary task to an actually enlightening experience. I appreciate now why professionals meet for journal club and subscribe to journals that they actually read. I am incredibly thankful we had this daunting assignment, otherwise I may have never read another journal article again.