How-To Procedure Manual For The Klutzy Radiologist
Some of us are not born to be athletic and coordinated like Michael Jordan or Pele. It’s just not in the cards. As a part of this group, I can remember many simple radiology procedural activities challenging me that would make the average resident wonder! Simple things like putting on sterile gloves and coiling interventional wires seemed like rocket science. However, hope springs eternal. And, believe it or not, many strategies exist to allow the klutzy radiology resident to become an expert at performing a procedure. We will discuss these today.
Read Everything You Can About The Procedure
Procedural work is not just about performing the manual task. It involves significant preparation and planning, both from a manual and an intellectual standpoint. Therefore, your role is to know all that you can prior to performing the procedure. Some of the questions you need to be able to answer prior to any procedure include: What is the reason for the procedure? When may the procedure not be appropriate for the individual patient? What are all the tools and equipment needed to complete the procedure? How can you avoid complications? If a complication arises during the test, do you know what you have to do next? And, of course, what are the appropriate ways to manage the patient after you have completed the procedure?
In addition, nowadays, most procedures have associated “how-to” articles or texts in the literature that can help you to understand step-by-step exactly how to perform a procedure. Not only do you want to read each of these articles, but you also want to live and breathe all the information in it. What do I mean by that? If you can, mentally picture yourself performing the steps of the procedure prior to stepping into the interventional suite.
Gather All The Relevant Patient Information
Obtaining information about a patient prior to a procedure is just as important as the procedure itself. In fact, you need to be able to complete the appropriate test for the patient at hand. If not, you can cause additional radiation exposure and potentially irreparable harm.
Therefore, gathering relevant patient information is essential before performing any procedure. What do I mean by that? Here are some of the relevant questions you want to answer. Does the reason for a procedure match the history of the patient? Is the patient able to consent? Are all the appropriate blood tests completed prior to starting the procedure? Do you know of anything about the patient’s history that would increase the likelihood of complications? And, so on and so forth. Make sure that if your attending asks you something about the patient prior to its performance, you know the answer. It will come back to bite you if you don’t.
Practice Outside The Interventional Suite
As Malcolm Gladwell states in his book Outliers, you need to do something 10,000 hours to become an expert. Therefore, it is important that your work does not end after the initial steps. If you have problems coiling a wire, practice the maneuver at off-times at work or home. When you have difficulty putting on sterile gloves the right way, take a pair and practice. If you have difficulties with suturing, learn needlework. Especially if you are not a member of the athletic/coordinated club, you will need to practice, practice, practice until you get it right!
Volunteer Ad Nauseum
Lastly, you need to develop the qualities of grit and perseverance. When a procedure is available, take the opportunity to participate. Don’t be a wallflower. As one of my program directors during my residency stated over and over, “Radiology is not a spectator sport!” He was right. Procedural comfort is directly related to the number of times you have completed a procedure. So, go forth and participate as much as possible!
Everyone has some deficiencies and we are not born perfect. In order to overcome these deficiencies, we need to proceed with hard work and determination. Procedural skills for the klutzy resident are no different. So go forth and read avidly about procedures, gather the appropriate patient information, practice outside the interventional suite, and volunteer for procedures over and over. No matter if you are a bit klutzy. You too will have the power to master any procedure if you follow these basic guidelines!