The clinical view

I had occasion recently to see a doctor at a clinic. (Spoiler alert: I’m fine.) Because it was a teaching hospital, the doctor was accompanied by another doctor and four residents, all eager to learn. You feel like a bit of a guinea pig, sitting there in your socks and hospital gown that’s impossible to tie up, while the doctor uses you to show the residents symptoms you do or do not have. Finally, he gets around to what you came for: the diagnosis.

Afterward, I got thinking, why don’t other institutions and corporations follow a similar methodology? We have apprenticeships for the trades, and co-op programs at some universities, but little else for on-the-spot learning. What few interns do exist are being eliminated because some people feel they’ve been exploited.

But why shouldn’t all institutions welcome young people who can come and watch what employees do? Imagine a human resources officer conducting job interviews while a recent community college graduate sits in. Or a sales rep making calls with a tagalong learning the ropes. Or a journalist with a young wannabe at her elbow as she conducts interviews.

If every business and government department always had three such unpaid watchers for a few months at a time, we’d pull thousands of young people out of their parents’ basements where they’re waiting for careers to begin. Moreover, imagine the productivity improvement in the workplace. All those mentoring employees would actually have to do something all day long because they had a “shadow” watching their every step.

Sounds like a win-win situation to me.

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