BMJ 2011; 343 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.d7337 (Published 16 November 2011) Cite this as: BMJ 2011;343:d7337

Helpful receptionists are always appreciated by patients—just make sure they aren’t also giving out medical advice. An experienced receptionist in one busy general practice advised a patient who was 30 weeks pregnant that the pains she was experiencing every few minutes were nothing to be concerned about. “Don’t worry”, she said, “they’ll just be training contractions.” Two hours later, the woman had a breech delivery at home; the baby suffered hypoxic brain damage and required long term care (Medical Protection Society Update 2011;38).

Scientific brilliance is not only the domain of the young. An analysis of Nobel prize winners in physiology or medicine, physics, and chemistry found that the average age at which Nobel Laureates did their prize winning work varies between fields and changes over time within fields. Great achievements before the age of 30 were common until 1905, but have become increasingly rare. The authors point to two reasons: an accumulation of knowledge, …

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