Creating Your “Peripheral Brain”

My last post was about how to keep track of the information you are learning on different services.

A related, but slightly different issue is the best way to create a “peripheral brain” for your clinical work.  Every medical student and resident creates their own “peripheral brain” to access reference material that they use on a regular basis.  In it’s simplest form, it can be a list of phone numbers for the rotation, faculty dictation numbers, etc.  In a more advanced form, it can include normograms for drug dosing, tables for probability of survival in the ICU,  lists of attending preferences for patient care, etc.

The internet has become a vast  “peripheral brain” for everyone in medicine.  We all use it to find information.   But it’s not ideal because it’s not specific for your needs.  For reference material you need over and over,  it’s more effecient to have it with you.   Unlike the system I described for studying (which is based on 3×5 cards), your peripheral brain should be digital.  My current recommendation for students and residents is to use Evernote.

In a nutshell, here’s how Evernote works:

1.  It’s free. (You can pay $5/month for the Premium version to have your data encrypted and to increase your storage, but you probably won’t need it)

2.  You create “notes” that are stored on a server by Evernote in your account.

3.  “Notes” on Evernote are more than just notes you type – they can also be photos you take, voice recordings, websites, clippings from websites or articles (tables, graphs, normograms, etc), pdfs, scanned images or text.. you get the idea.  Anything that can be stored digitally is a “note” in Evernote.

3.  You can access your notes on any computer, on your desktop (i.e. separate from the internet) and on your smart phone.

4.  You can search your notes.  This is by far the most amazing part of Evernote.  In essence it converts your notes to your own personal “Google”.  Evernote has text recognition for photos which really increases your ability to search.  For example, if you take a picture of a business card, you can search for it by any word that is on the card.

One big caveat.  Do NOT put any information about patients on Evernote.  Even if you pay for the encrypted version, it does not meet HIPPA requirements and you are breaking the law.

Here’s some links to more information about using Evernote:

2 thoughts on “Creating Your “Peripheral Brain”

  1. Something that I find to be a parallel, but for basic sciences, is OneNote. Many of the MS I’s use it because of its simple notebook organization, google-like searching within, and easy import/export of powerpoints, pdf’s, etc. I really like it’s “clip” function, and use it to create flashcards of literally anything.

    Over the summer I am going to figure out if I can organize journals, articles, and other literature. Hopefully it’ll make writing up case reports, etc a lot easier!

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