Explaining Operating Systems in Medical Terms!

Over the last 30 years Jackie has lived in France, run a B&B, been a hands-on auxiliary nurse and also a full time mum and housewife.    She had never needed to use a computer nor had she had ever had any desire to!   That was until she came back to Britain and needed to find work.    At the Job Centre Jackie was asked what her IT skills were like and she rated herself as ‘zero’!   Subsequently Jackie was referred to ITEC.


When Jackie came in 3 weeks ago the first thing she said to me was “I know nothing about computers so this is going to take a while! I am a Dinosaur when it comes to learning new technology”!  She was very apprehensive about learning IT and was in awe of the younger generation, who are so comfortable with IT.    I explained that the ‘StartIT’ course is done at her pace and, actually, she might surprise herself at how much she already knew!   But as Jackie progressed through the programme, asking lots of questions, she started getting frustrated and in her own words she “just wasn’t getting it”!   The concept of operating systems, files and folders was like a foreign language.   My usual explanation when I’m training someone is to liken the folders structure to the filing cabinet in an office but Jackie has never worked in an office.  How could I explain this in a way that Jackie could understand?  Mmmmm!    Jackie’s main background was nursing!  Mmmmm!

The first thing that sprang to mind was CPR.   This preserves life so, to all intents and purposes, life is our operating system.

I can remember my early first aid lessons and when I first learnt CPR I was taught to hold the patient’s nose, breathe into the patient’s mouth and do chest compressions, then breathe, then back to chest compressions all at set intervals.   (This was like an early version of operating systems, say Windows 3.1!)


But when I renewed my first aid certificate a few years later, we were taught to do chest compressions to Nelly the Elephant with minimal breathing in to the mouth (updated operating system to Windows XP!) and these days CPR consists of just chest compressions to Staying Alive!  Like Vinnie Jones in the new adverts!  Ah, Ah, Ah, Ah, staying alive, staying alive!  (Windows 7!)  Ah ha!!   Jackie grasped this idea and the penny was beginning to drop.




Next, we tackled files and folders, which we likened to prescriptions and a medicine cabinet.   The doctor writes a prescription, “a file” and keeps it on the patient’s notes “a folder”.  The doctor makes a carbon “copy” of the prescription to give to the nurse, so now there are 2 copies of the file.    This is the same as ‘copying and pasting’.    The nurse would keep the prescriptions in the medicine cabinet, “a folder”.    If a prescription was “moved” from one cabinet to another there would still only be one prescription – this is ‘cutting and pasting’.   Yes!!  Jackie was beginning to understand.

Jackie has passed her module assignment with flying colours!   Well done, Jackie – Who would have thought ‘Nelly the Elephant’ and ‘Staying Alive’ would help you pass an ‘IT Fundamentals’ exam?


Kerry Prigg – IT Trainer

Guest Blogger