The attorney asks you to do a literature search on the relationship between diabetes and abdominal trauma. His client was rear ended in a motor vehicle accident and the attorney wants to establish the link between the accident and the new onset diabetes. You suddenly realize, as you go deeper and deeper in the literature, that you are experiencing information overload.
Enough but not too much information
There is a risk in overwhelming your client with too much information. The net result is the attorney looks at you and asks, “What is the bottom line? Cut to the chase. Can you establish causation?” You think, “But I gave you all of those PDFs, lovingly highlighted with the relevant information. I organized them, tabbed them, and gave you a table of contents. Look at all of the information I gave you.”
I recall a case in which the attorney asked me for what he thought was a simple literature search. I handed him a 3” three ring binder filled with articles.
As he hoisted it on his hip, he muttered “And when will I have time to go through this?” Oops. He really wanted an executive summary of all of that content.
Remember when you were learning about legal nurse consulting? You felt like your brain might explode? That’s an exaggerated symptom of information overload. But, most people are experiencing it daily from normal life due to fast access to information via the internet.
Information overload can cause the following symptoms:
- Cardiovascular issues
- And more…
You certainly don’t want to upset your client when you are really trying to just help him.
It’s like drinking water from a fire hose
Any time you want to learn something, it’s tempting to start gathering tons of information. And due to the internet, it’s easy to get drawn down into the rabbit hole of unending information. It becomes hard to determine what information is going to be helpful to your client and what constitutes information overload.
Giving your client too much leads to poor information filtering. When you are bombarded with so much information, your brain can’t filter it properly. Your brain does something called twigging, which means that instead of filtering information in terms of importance it just generalizes all information as being the same. This is terrible for decision making.
It leads to black and white thinking. Medical issues are rarely black and white. The world is colorful, black, white, gray and everything in between and more. The same can be said for a lot of medical issues. There are very few issues that are either right or wrong, black or white.
If you give your client too much it’s easy to see things as black and white.
So what do you do to avoid information overload?
Start with authoritative websites and articles. Filter the information through the lens of the specific case issues you are dealing with. Ask your client about the work product.
- Does the attorney want the articles?
- Does he want you to highlight the relevant portions?
- Does he want you to summarize each article?
- Does he want you to give a global summary of your conclusions based on your research?
When you are clear on what your client needs, you won’t end up with the oops feeling I had when I realized I was guilty of information overload.
Listen to Darrell Gunter’s podcast on Legal Nurse Podcast on doing medical literature searches for another perspective on this responsibility.