Grow up and learn how to do Statistics

Steve Simon


I attended a talk by Dr. Martha Curley about parental presence during invasive procedures and resuscitation. Early in the talk, Dr. Curley mentioned a bell shaped curve and mentioned “the statistician in me” which was a surprising but appreciated revelation (Dr. Curley is a faculty member of the University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing).

I asked her about this and she said that the first time she was introduced to Statistics, she was apprehensive. But she learned in her career that if she was going to advocate changes in clinical practice, she had to bring data with her. It wouldn’t be enough to just say, you should do this because I think it is a good idea. But people do change when they are presented with the appropriate data.

This was a revelation to me and made me realize that those of you who are medical professionals cannot afford to hide behind the fiction that Statistics is too complex to master. Such an attitude does not serve you well and diminishes your influence and authority. If you don’t get squeamish about inserting a urinary catheter, then stop pretending you will never get comfortable with a number like a standard deviation. Grow up, and learn how to do Statistics, just like you learned how to do other things that are difficult, but important. You’ll be a better person for it.

You can find an earlier version of this page on my old website.