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A week full of firsts

I’ve spent this past week on my anesthesia rotation and there have been quite a few first time experiences. Anesthesia gives students a lot of opportunities to do hands on work and learn some basic skills of patient care. This past week I successfully intubated a patient (place a breathing tube during surgery), bag-mask ventilated patients, and started IV’s for the first time. These things might not sound too exciting but they are skills that are valuable to learn as a physician in training.

The main take away from these experiences was that you’ll often not succeed the first time(s) you attempt something, but its important that you keep trying. I wasn’t successful the first few times I tried intubating, and it took me a lot of attempts before I succeeded in placing an IV. Throughout these initial failures, I found myself getting frustrated. It’s hard to accept failure, but it’s a necessary part of the learning process. As medical students we want to be perfect. We understand the importance of what we are studying and it is a profession in which failure is so strongly looked down on. The sooner we can accept that we will stumble along the way and that things will not always be easy, the sooner we can embrace the full learning potential of our educational training. Thomas Edison has a famous quote about how many times he failed before successful creating a light bulb. He said how he now knew a thousand ways to not make a light bulb. In a sense, thanks to my previous missed attempts, I now know a thousand ways to not start an IV haha. Ok, so it didn’t actually take me 1,000 attempts but you get the point. Our stumbles along the way will only provide valuable lessons about how to improve and do our best to succeed the next time.

So whether you’re a first year student terrified of taking a blood pressure on a real life patient (I definitely was), or you’re third year intubating a challenging patient, don’t be afraid of making a mistake. Learn from them and work to do better the next time, for this is the only way to get better.


The views expressed in this content represent the perspective and opinions of the author and may or may not represent the position of Indiana University School of Medicine.
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Brian Sutterer

I am currently in my fourth year and am primarily located at the Indianapolis campus. I spent my first two years at the Terre Haute campus, but relocated to Indy for the final two. My interest in medicine is the field of physical medicine and rehabilitat...