Operator Error #illumedati

Hey everyone, it’s Medicine Mondays again. Today we’re going to talk about my “Operator Error”.

I Am Error.

Operator Error?


I think sometimes when we teach other people how to do things, we tend to forget steps because they seem self-explanatory. However, these only occurs because we’re done it so many times.

The best example of this is an exercise we did in my middle school back when I was a kid in the Dark Ages, pre-Internet. Basically, the exercise was to teach an alien who could understand our language, but had no idea of any of the customs or common sense of the planet to do something simple. In this case, it was to make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.

Most students wrote something like:

  • Take out bread, peanut butter, and jelly.
  • Spread the peanut butter and jelly on the bread.
  • Eat.

These are simple instructions and any normal human could understand them. However, there are a lot of steps which are left out which everyone assumes are self-explanatory.

In the example above, an alien wouldn’t understand how to spread peanut butter and jelly on the bread. Additionally, you never told the alien to take the bread out of the bag or how to get the peanut butter and jelly out of the jar.

So then, following your instructions technically, the alien would place the peanut butter jar and jelly jar on top of the bread still in its bag — and then try to eat it. Basically, the alien isn’t wrong, your instructions simply weren’t good enough for that particular audience.

I see.

So, this is kind of a just a reminder for how to teach someone something new. In order to be successful, you need to put yourself back in their shoes with their level of experience. As doctors, I think we tend to forget this a lot and skip over things that we think should be common sense or self-explanatory.

Don’t forget about my example with learning how to use window/level as a radiology resident. Something that simple is expected to be self-explanatory by an attending or even a resident who had been there for a month. However, for a resident who had just started that day, you need to start from the beginning. Even if the resident understands what window/level is as a medical student, they probably won’t have knowledge base to understand what a good subdural window or stroke window are. Perhaps even more importantly, they won’t understand why these windows help.

Anyways, today’s post is mostly because of me in regards to Operator Error.



So I’ve been trying these external nasal dilators for awhile now. I’ve talked about them in multiple sleep posts, sleep hygiene, snoring and even home sleep study. Now, while I wait to try my own APAP machine, I’m still trying to use my external nasal dilators, Dortz.

You would think these things are pretty self-explanatory given how simple they look. And, for the most part they are. However, I’ve been having trouble with them falling out of my nose at night. I attributed this mainly to my moving around as I sleep. Unfortunately, it may just be my own Operator Error.

I was afraid by placing the dilators too far up into my nostrils that it would be uncomfortable. For that reason, I was probably making them much too loose. Once I started to put them a little farther in, they fell out less at night and the snoring has gotten better, or so my wife says.

You would think that something so simple wouldn’t require instructions. However, you know what they sayL

When you try make something idiot-proof, the world somehow manages to build a better idiot (like me).

In all the pictures on Amazon, you can see the Dortz are snugly in their nostrils. In fact, they’re so snug, that you can see the little band in between the two nasal ends flush against their nasal septum in the midline.

That’s where it should be.

Of course, it’s obvious now that I looked. However, because I glazed over this, I didn’t put 2 and 2 together until now.

Operator Error


Operator Error is real.

When teaching something new to someone, remember to put yourself in their shoes with their level of experience.

When something doesn’t work quite the way you want it to, go back to the instructions. You may have missed something small, but significant.

When you try make something idiot-proof, the world somehow manages to build a better idiot (like me).

Medicine Mondays Sensei


Agree? Disagree? Questions, Comments and Suggestions are welcome.

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