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Mind = Blown "The Protege Effect"

At some point in your career, you will probably teach something to somebody. These “Somebodies” could be EMT’s, paramedics, or nurses in training; or the newly hired individuals to your team. They could be the audience members at your conference presentation; or even your co-workers and staff. Your pupil could very well be a seasoned provider, who may have several more years of experience and street cred (more importantly) than you. Is that intimidating? It might be; But it can also be a sub-conscious motivator. Regardless of who the “Somebody” is, you now have the responsibility of instilling the knowledge of your craft into the spongey-like brains of your student.


When I first transitioned into the various roles of instructor, preceptor, field training officer, lecturer, educator, Power Point creator-extraordinaire; etc… I noticed that something strange started to happen to me. I had this feeling that some odd force was making me transform into a better learner myself, and that I had more of an interest in the material for which I had been putting together for my students or audience. I could also held onto it much longer after I had actually taught it. This crazy thought occurred to me. It may sound silly, but I often have these weird epiphanies. This particular one made me say “Whoa” ...Keanu Reeves style.

I began to think to myself, “There must be a name for this..”This weird feeling; this absurd, and newly-acquired knowledge retention ability. I only recently found the term after some research, and it explains it pretty well. At least we know there is a name for it; which means I can now sleep soundly at night and silence my inner Keanu.

The Protégé Effect

To quote Seneca, the Roman philosopher, “While we teach, we learn.” When we have the intent to teach or share certain information, we more effectively learn it; and subsequently retain more of it. This happens more so than if we were to seek out this information to learn it just for our own benefit. Why does this happen, you may ask? If you want to teach something to somebody, would you want to sound like an idiot when delivering that information? Wouldn’t you want to be the go-to person for the information? Would you want to fall short on knowing as much as you can? Absolutely not. So basically, you will be paying more attention to the various details surrounding the info, because you will eventually have to pass onto others. Your willingness or motivation to learn the most you can about it will have the tendency to be greater. In essence, your subconscious is saying “Don’t look like a dummy, know your stuff.” Is the fear of looking stupid a great motivator? Absolutely.


I personally believe that this phenomenon has been extremely helpful to me while in the roles mentioned above; Also, in my role as a clinician. I will give you all an example. Our team recently switched to a new ventilator, and myself and a couple of others were tasked with being the “Super-users.” Being a referred to as a “Super-user” on a piece of equipment that I had used just as little as those to whom I had to teach said-equipment to, was slightly scary. So, in an attempt to not look completely clueless, I did my research. I learned the information in a different kind of way; totally unaware that I was doing so. After all, I had to be the one to explain this thing to my team, and I did not want to fail them or sell them short when it came to giving them the tools they needed to succeed. This put the pressure on to learn; and not just the bare minimum to get by. I wanted to have the ability to explain everything as clearly as possible to somebody else. The more often I explained the ventilator, the easier it became for me to operate as well. You certainly will hold onto more of the info you learned for sharing, since you put in the work and dove in a little deeper to become almost a content expert-of-sorts. This definitely has helped me in improving my practice.

One thing that I can say with confidence, is that this strange feeling of “I know a lot more than I would normally about this, because I wanted everyone else to know about it too..” has certainly made me want to take on more teaching opportunities. Pushing yourself to do those things can help you in your endeavors to be a better clinician, and even help improve your leadership abilities. Spreading the knowledge makes a better team and a better you. Teach your partner something on shift. Teach your pilot something about what you do clinically. Write something educational for your peers. Go lecture! Making everyone else better will make you better. The best students are those who are the teachers!

-Ami Tomaszewsk

Paul, A. M. (2011). The Protégé Effect. TIME. com. November, 30.

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