Today I had a rough day. Third year of medical school can be scary because you’re always feeling like a novice, and this was made especially clear to me today on my anesthesiology rotation. Today, without going into too much detail, I found that if the attending physician didn’t constantly give me explicit instructions for doing things — administering a drug, the angle at which to insert a needle into the skin, making sure to place EKG leads correctly — I felt utterly imcompetent and incapable of performing seemingly simple procedures.
I keep expecting there will be one day where I cross this magic threshold and I’ll suddenly feel competent and self-assured, and I’ll be able to take on any medical challenge or emergency that comes my way. So it was comforting to come across this video of Ira Glass explaining how it’s frustrating to be a beginner at something (he refers mainly to beginners in creative fields, but I think it applies to many different pursuits) because you have “good taste” (i.e. you know what would be considered “good” or “skillful”) but your actual work does not meet those standards.
In the video, Ira Glass plays a radio story that he recorded after 8 years of working in public radio (8 years! that was already a long time!), which was admittedly not the greatest story, and which gives us all hope that one can come far with some effort and dedication, since he is a well-respected, amazing giant in radio today. The key is perserverance and practice, and in the creative world it seems that continuing to produce work — a steady, constant, large volume of work — will help one refine one’s skills.
I think this also applies to my desire to start blogging, writing, and dabbling in radio journalism again, when I get the chance. I’ve been thinking about this since high school, really, but never really have given it enough effort because all my previous attempts have fallen somewhat short of what I wanted to achieve. But perhaps this blog, used as a testing ground, will be my way of increasing my volume of writing and help me improve my skills and gain confidence.
The great thing about being a beginner, on the other hand, is that when you make mistakes, it’s okay because not much is expected of you. (At least that is how it is in medical school.) Medicine is very hierarchical, and while I’m currently at the bottom of the totem pole on the ladder and basically am told what to do by residents, attendings, and housestaff, I also am freed from taking primary responsibility for patients’ well-being and therefore can go through the motions of being a doctor without fear of causing harm. I can practice with the safety of knowing that no one will let me do anything that might hurt a patient.
But it still really sucks when I make a mistake. Today was still rough. I just hope that I learn from all mistakes and that I don’t make the same mistake twice. However, there are so many mistakes out there waiting to be made…I guess that it’s just important to be as prepared as possible, stay calm in the face of unexpected challenges, and learn from past experiences.