Some words to keep me going

I really do enjoy being on a list with Dr Jim C. He is a man of precision and perfection, one who pays careful attention to most aspects of his anaesthetic. He doesn’t just make sure that the patient is asleep and on the table, but takes immense caution in ensuring that his tubes, drips, drains and the patient’s pressure areas are all fastidiously protected. He is punctilious in his manner, seeking elegance and economy of movement in every procedure he performs. When he does something, he ensures that it is done to completion. Even when it’s something as simple as cannulation- he sees no point in inserting a cannula beautifully, yet settling for an unsatisfactory and shoddy application of the dressing over it. He is also a tidy anaesthetist with good habits, one who ensures that monitoring wires are not all tangled up, and more importantly, one who does not leave his worktop a mess with needles, syringes, spillages and wrappers galore. Dr C has a tonne of tips and tricks up his sleeve: how to flush a line without using a syringe, how to roll up your gas analysis  sampling tube so it doesn’t tangle when you pull at it, how to prevent sticky drapes from sticking onto your ET tube when inserting a central line… I have learnt so many nifty tricks from him. Many of the theatre staff may complain about his obessive-compulsive attention to to detail, but I really respect him for it.

But I guess most importantly, I respect and love Dr C because of his feedback. To me, feedback is an extremely powerful tool in an apprenticeship. It tells me where I stand with respect to other people’s expectations of me. When I get good feedback, I feel good about myself. My confidence is boosted, and I know that I am headed in the right direction. When the feedback I receive is not so positive, then at least it serves as a warning that something is wrong somewhere and that it needs addressing. Without feedback, I am lost like a blind sheep. I know I am working hard, but am I working hard enough? Am I good enough? Feedback is precious and powerful. Yet in this world where we live in, people are so caught up with themselves and their own interests to consider how they can constructively help others to develop. People are too selfish or shy to honestly share good feedback with the people they work with. In my workplace, Dr C is the only consultant anaesthetist who would give me his honest evaluation of my work and progression.

Dr C has given me some really excellent feedback in the last couple of times I have worked with him. I am over the moon, and I want to write them all down. Who knows? Some day, when I am particularly downhearted from work, these may serve as my life-buoy– words that will keep me going whenever I struggle to believe in myself.

A couple of weeks ago, Dr C told me that he feels that I have made excellent progress as a junior anaesthetist. He felt that my fears and lack of confidence in the past have really paved the way for my development into a competent anaesthetist now. He said that he was discussing this with Dr Kent in private, and they both agreed that I have turned the corner.

Today, he watched me (from outside the door) induce an obese patient who was a bit of a challenge in terms of intubation and ventilation. When I finally did get the tube into the trachea and the patient was safe on the table, he then came back in to tell me that “you are very cool, and you don’t flap about at all.” Later in the day, it came up in our conversation that I was a Liverpool Medical graduate. It was funny then to see Dr C look at me in shock exclaiming “You are a Liverpool graduate?! But you are competent! How is that possible? Either you are really brilliant, or I really don’t give Liverpool Medical School enough credit for the quality of its teaching.” Finally, he made a comment today that an anaesthetist’s job is all about being careful in anticipating problems and then taking active steps to prevent them from developing. He felt that I had displayed all those qualities in his observation of my work today and emphasized that I was competent. I feel so relieved to hear his reassurances all through the day.

Coming from a consultant whom I have immense respect for, I am all the more thankful for the feedback that I have received.

Thank you Dr C, for such wonderful feedback.

Thank you Lord, for Dr C.


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