Today I was running an introduction to coding workshop at the GP trainee conference in the Oval London. I love teaching medics how to code. The smile you see on some of their faces when they realize that solving a problem with code is possible, once you’ve broken down the solution step by step. Getting excited with coding is easy! The problem is maintaining the steam in order to keep learning is the hard thing. When a medic goes back to their day job there usually isn’t anyone there who shares the interest, and online courses require a lot of hours before there’s any payoff. What’s more, these online courses are not tailored to medics, meaning that after these hours does it really give you a payoff in medicine. Here are some tips to keep you going
Find coding buddies
Coding in the NHS is new, and senior clinicians don’t really understand it, let alone give advice and support for it. Even if the senior clinician says that they’re interested in tech don’t be fooled. I know a few consultants who like to talk about their interest in tech but what they really mean is that they like using it when everything is done. Any new concepts that cannot be instantly demonstrated in a polished app and they run a mile. You need to find a coding buddy, even if they’re learning, the peer support is always a boost. If you’re stuck, join the facebook group: clinical developers club [link]. Here there are loads of doctors who know how to code and are developing their own projects.
Develop a toy project
A big killer of the coding train is being ambitious. This doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t think big, just remember that you’re starting out so keep it simple. The example I always use to introduce coding is a DVT risk scoring app because the concept is simple, and you get to use lists, functions, and basic logic for the app to calculate a score. The video tutorial is here [link]. At the start of your journey, it’s unlikely that you’d be developing anything that’s going to change practice, so you might as well have some fun. Develop a hangman game, a small quiz, or a simple risk score calculator. You’ll be so busy focusing on the project and having fun you will look back with a pleasant surprise on how far you’ve come when it’s done.
Don’t make definite plans
The chances are that you have a particular solution to a problem or an app idea that’s pushed to into learning how to code. That’s good but forget about it for now. Write it down, forget you even had the idea, and focus on learning the basics. The reason why I’m telling you this is that learning code will change the way you think. It will teach you how to break down problems, and solve them in a step by step manner. You will also realize the limitations and possibilities of what you can do with code. The more you learn the more ideas you have, and the better they get. Whenever you get an idea on your coding journey, write it down, and revisit your ideas from time to time. If you can map out a structure of a solution for one of the ideas, chase it and move from the dummy game projects to a real solution.