April 14, 2007

Learning Life Skills

Today I learned how to intubate a patient.

It was a random thing that one of the MS-4s offered at the end of our anatomy class today. It was our first class challenge, really... something that some of us found very difficult and others, less so.

You hold this metal pipe with a little flashlight and a curved metal stick. Then you maneuver the whole device to down the throat of an unconscious patient, lift the tongue, visualize the epiglottis, lift that up out of the way as well and maintain your position while you get the tube ready. You can't brace yourself against the teeth because you can crack them or break them outright. A lot of people struggle at this point, arms quaking from the effort of lifting in the appropriate but awkward position. You sneak the tube in, inflate the cuff to seal the airway and remove the wire guide. A few pumps with a bag tells you if you stuck the tube into the airway if the chest moves up and down. If the stomach moves instead, then you hit the esophagus instead.

I actually intubated three times today with a 3:0 record! Granted, they were on mannequins in our simulated patient lab, but I still enjoyed it. It was really cool to successfully place a tracheal tube, so much so that I couldn't help but brag afterwards about how I learned a "life-saving skill" to one of my classmates who wasn't able to intubate. She took the dig in stride and I padded it a little by adding that she must have had trouble because of her tendonitis (which made her wrists sore on both sides at the same time!)

After a little mulling over, I don't know how I feel about this.
I am relieved that I actually have some clinical skill.
I look forward to the day when I can confidently perform this tricky maneuver.
I am happy that today, it isn't something that I necessarily needed to struggle with.

However, after watching "My Ocardial Infarction" from Scrubs, where J.D. experiences a humbling moment in which he falls behind Elliot in skill after bragging, I realized that I learned a bigger lesson today.

You can't let your ego get in the way of doing things well.
I feel that my classmates deserve more support than I deserve praise.

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