Our thoughts greatly affect many aspects of our lives. How we view the world, our emotions, and our actions are all influenced by the voice in our head created by millions of firing neurons. It is very easy for this innate resource to become detrimental if we do not take control of it. All too often, this voice is taken hostage by our brains for the nefarious purpose of twisting our thoughts and convincing us we don’t deserve our position because we are incompetent. It begins without our knowledge or consent and continues to grow until these thoughts grip us in a manner that is too difficult to shake.
The ability to practice reflection and mindfulness is an indispensable skill in the healthcare field. These internal mechanisms, when harnessed for positive purposes, assist us in learning how we can improve our knowledge, skills, and image of ourselves as medical professionals. It allows us to view situations objectively, and extract meaning from the actions or inactions of ourselves and others. Reflection can show us where or how we can improve, such as better communication methods or more up-to-date skills.
At the end of a shift, reviewing the positive and negative events that occurred, evaluating what could have been done differently, and preparing for the next shift allows for a functional reset. This reset ensures the ability to learn from our mistakes without dwelling on them. This reset ensures that we don’t bring our work home and allow it to affect our life and relationships outside of work. This reset ensures that we come in for our next shift better prepared to deal with the challenges we will continue to face throughout our career. This method prepares us even before we must use emergency medical care, providing a sound base to build upon.
The human mind is not biased in forming opinions only about ourselves but extends that courtesy to everyone around us as well. It is vitally important in the healthcare field that we don’t allow our biases to cloud our judgements and actions. A patient may have been rude to you or other staff members. Maybe a patient’s family hasn’t been respecting the rules. Our own personal opinions may be playing a part in how we view patients. We must use the few seconds we may have before beginning life-saving techniques to focus simply on doing our jobs to the best of our abilities. In that moment, we are required to use our body of knowledge to save a life. Having a positive or negative view of a patient should never impact how hard you work to save their life.
Practice: the best way to prepare physically for performing life-saving techniques. As medical professionals, we consistently train for situations so that they become second nature. We gain muscle memory and develop a rhythm through practicing. The constant repeating and perfecting of these skills ensures that whether the emergency is ‘routine’ or something that has never been encountered before, we will still be able to effectively deliver life-saving care. These systems become so ingrained within us that our bodies can quickly move through nervousness into confidence in our abilities when we need to rely on them most.
I’m not going to lie; I haven’t set foot into a medical facility as a student as of yet. And, quite frankly, I have no idea when that will happen because of our current precarious global situation. These methods are ones that continue to be helpful to me personally in preparing to physically enter a clinical setting. How do I know these methods will holdfast once I am in these learning situations? The ideas of using reflection and practice to enhance skills and build confidence is not a concept limited to the medical field. These principles can be applied to most any situation in order to improve one’s abilities: test-taking, performance in sports, baking your fifteenth loaf of bread during quarantine, anything.
Careers in the medical field carry a heavy weight for many reasons. They require a specialized information set and a language all their own. They require lifelong learning in a rapidly changing environment that ages its knowledge almost instantaneously. Most importantly, they require building a relationship of trust with a variety of populations. The honor placed in the hands of medical professionals to protect the safety and dignity of patients is something that should be taken in earnest. We must take steps every single day in preparing to hold fast to our duties, especially when enacting life-saving techniques.