I knew from the beginning that Anaesthesiology would be an incredibly difficult rotation for me. It is nothing like Medicine and nothing like Surgery, yet it encompasses both.
I’ve given patients medicine before, but never had to use complex equations to do so. I’ve done lumbar punctures, but never had to inject something into the spinal canal. I’ve administered nebulisations, but never a vapour that would render my patient unable to maintain his basic life functions.
Basically, I’ve done tiny things but never really anything with major risk to the patient. Never really anything with so many factors that come into play. Never really anything where I had to take charge.
My friends will tell you that I was an emotional wreck for the past three weeks. I don’t know why this rotation scared me so much. Thousands of students at my school have done and survived this rotation, and so would I, surely.
I think everything before this has always kind of felt natural. Taking a good history is difficult at first, but at least talking is easy. Physical exams have some logic to them (inspect, palpate, percuss, auscultate). Even IV lines are easy to figure out. You need very little brains and just a little common sense to do those things as a medical student. Anaesthesia, even though I quite enjoyed the theory last year, just doesn’t come as naturally.
As part of our assessment we had to do solo cases. I think this was what freaked me out. I don’t want to cause a patient’s demise (obviously). I also know it’s imperative that I know how to do these things properly, because they are expected of us during housemanship and community service.
The thing is though that being a rock star can’t be taught in a few weeks.
Well, I did the cases. One spinal and one general anaesthetic. I don’t know yet how I did, but my patients did well during and after, so that is a good thing. I think I will be able to administer anaesthetic in uncomplicated cases with reasonable confidence in the future (in other words, I’ll still be peeing my pants with worry but at least I’ll know I am able to do it).
I think it is probably necessary for this rotation to be high-stress, but has been a while since I was so thoroughly dunked in the deep end and I think I nearly forgot how to swim. At least today, on my last call for the rotation, the registrar commented that we were now functioning on houseman-level. Which is good, since that is what we will be very soon.
This rotation taught me that I need to exude confidence even when I don’t feel it (“fake it till you make it”). It taught me to be stronger. Even though I dreaded the rollercoaster days, I resisted calling in “sick”. And I learned what it is like to fly solo. To take matters into your own hands and not freak out about it. To trust your knowledge and to heed your gut. I would like to think that I’m a little tougher now. A little more ready for the other difficult rotations coming my way in the next year. That in the coming rotations, I’ll be a little less likely to doubt myself.