One Little Victory

Cliches always seem to ride in pairs. "Practice makes perfect" and "Hindsight is always 20/20" are not only annoyingly accurate, but joined at the hip. When I look back to my first days of clinic in grad school, I think to myself, "Wow, have I come a long way." And then I look to my new colleagues at New Job and think to myself, "I wish I could do that."

I caught myself this week falling into the familiar trap of being met with new challenges and wanting to handle them like a seasoned pro. The problem? I'm not yet a seasoned pro. To borrow the words of my new favorite TV chef, I have been brought to a boil, but am not yet ready to reduce to a simmer. I'm getting there, though.

Last week I got to do several video swallow studies. During my CF, I was fortunate to have a number of opportunities to do videos, however the equipment was lacking and the overall support from both my department and the radiology department was poor. Hence, at New Job I have sought retraining, and have been very pleased, if a bit stressed, so far.

Here's how I've gone about starting fresh:

  1. reviewing and relearning anatomy (enormous hat tip to a new friend I met at ASHA in November)
  2. learning the procedures specific to New Job (every place does them differently)
  3. getting comfortable with new procedures
  4. learning to recognize the anatomy from fluoro view
  5. learning to spot instances of penetration
  6. learning to spot instances of aspiration
  7. learning to observe surrounding anatomy during swallow

Prior to this, I would require at least 2-3 viewings in order to see everything. As I've forced myself to focus only on one or two specific things during the study (versus afterward, when I could review the disc), I've discovered that my perceptions have improved. Initially it's very difficult to observe everything in the moment, and synthesize that information. The beginner's mistake is to panic, as I had been doing, and try to see everything. It's only when you relax, and breathe, that you realize that to do so is self-defeating.

So here I am. I picked one thing at a time and worked to get better at it. And it's finally starting to pay off. Of course, I'm only just getting started, and I know it will take a good deal of time yet to really get confident. Still, it felt good last week when a neuro patient I've been working with proved more difficult to assess than I anticipated, and rather than panic, I was able to work through and get the information I needed for a good study.

One little victory at a time. And the best part? Instead of dreading the process, I'm finally beginning to enjoy it. Here's to more challenges, and more little victories...