What does it mean when people talk about Lifelong Learning?
Some people call it Continuous Education.
But that sounds a bit pompous. If I had to give you my definition:
Lifelong Learning is a voluntary commitment to engage in active training outside the workplace to consolidate and update (mostly) work-related knowledge and/or skills.
The commitment of continuous education is part of the academic lifestyle and deeply ingrained in the minds of every Medic.
However, over recent years, this philosophy has gained more and more recognition among the general workforce. Continuous learning during one’s lifetime has vital advantages for everyone, no matter what age or level of education.
So what are the advantages of a lifelong learning habit?
Medical knowledge is constantly changing and getting more complex
Keeping up to date with developments in the medical sector is vital for everyone who is working in this field. Just look at the floods of published literature and electronic information out there. New knowledge is emerging at an incredible pace. We are constantly confronted with novel therapies – just look at the immunological sector – new diagnostics and alternative medicine. But also the language is changing, it’s becoming gender neutral, patient-centred and getting rid of Stigma.
Clients have expectations for the highest possible quality
While it is part of every healthcare professional to embrace life-long learning, this should also apply to linguists in the medical sector.
If you want to deliver a top-notch product to your clients, you need to keep the finger on the pulse. New therapies and treatment methods often come hand in hand with new vocabulary – neologisms play a huge part in the medical literature. For that reason, it is crucial that every translator is up to speed with the terminology and jargon.
Don’t do it for your boss – do it for yourself
To enrol in a course and to get a certificate because you must, is not necessarily the ultimate objective. The aim of lifelong learning is more to keep yourself motivated and to step out of the comfort zone. Furthermore, it should feed the desire for more knowledge and self-improvement. Studies have found that there is a beneficial effect on general wellbeing when adopting continued education.
Lifelong Benefits from Lifelong Learning
A lifetime of learning can keep body and mind in good shape. It is proven by research that continued cognitive activity has a beneficial effect on the brain and helps to keep you mentally sharp – benefits that will manifest themselves primarily in the older age.
The habit of Lifelong Learning can also include physical learning such as exercise or dance classes. You could be taking up a new sport or learn how to play the piano. Lifelong learning means enhancing the things that give you vigour, that build your personality and expand your horizon – and making it a habit.
Tips for medical linguists to develop a lifelong learning strategy:
Make a conscious decision to learn
Put some time aside for your lifelong learning – even if you have a busy schedule. If you are a freelancer like me, use the “quiet time” to delve into some medical updates or increase the knowledge in your specialist field.
Use digital tools to learn:
Online journals are a great way to keep up to date with discoveries, important studies and hot topics. If you don’t have a subscription, use Twitter to follow journals such as NEJM, JAMA, BMJ or the Lancet. A great free online platform is Medscape (you might need to register) which gives you up to date information on many health topics and can be consulted as a compendium for many pathologies. (It even has a German version!)
Medical blogs are a great way to browse recent studies, but be careful too many of them are simply “click bait” and go down the tabloid press path. I will be writing a blog post about “useful” and “not so useful” health blogs in the next month.
Learn through writing
This is an old tip, but still effective. After reading an article, write a summary in your own words. And if you are a translator, do it in your target language. This is an excellent method consolidate your knowledge and to practise your linguistic skills.
Lifelong learning is the key to ensuring that you keep up to date with the latest standards, technologies and terminologies. It will not only make for happier clients but also enrich your work routine and keep you sharp for years to come.