September 2011 Issue
"Fifteen hundred years ago, everybody knew the Earth was the center of the universe. Five hundred years ago, everybody knew the earth was flat, and 15 minutes ago, you knew that humans were alone on this planet. Imagine what you'll know tomorrow."
-Agent K, Men in Black (1997)
My residency experience has flown by. It is difficult to sit down and reflect on the experiences of the past year while still caught up in the whirlwind of the present. Workflow is a fickle thing in this field; it is hard to strike a perfect balance between not busy and swamped. While things have calmed down this month, the whole month previous was my biggest learning experience to date. Managing multiple patients every day allowed me to pull together all the skills I have acquired and implement my own clinical decisions with little assistance. It feels good to see all the pieces of knowledge I have gained over the past year come together.
Simply put, I love my profession. It is inspiring to see people of all walks of life overcome obstacles and adversity and be a part of that process. Doing the job right takes work, but there has never been a time where the extra effort spent on a patient wasn't worth it. There is no amount of hours spent or check sockets fabricated that could diminish the feeling I get when a satisfied patient walks out the door with a smile on his or her face.
I have come a long way in the past year as both a practitioner and an individual, but I still have a long way to go on a journey that never really ends. I look at my boss, Stan Patterson, CP, who has been in this profession for approximately 20 years and never stops learning. Although he's the owner of a successful P&O practice, he is constantly trying to better our day-to-day practices. I have come to appreciate the benefits of actively trying new techniques in order to make myself a better practitioner, even with the possibility of failure. I have come to believe that resisting new techniques and new technology can be damaging to the progression of the field, and it can also negatively impact the level of care available for patients. Prosthetics is a dynamic and changing field, and I know that if I don't stay on top of my game for even one day, I could easily be at the bottom the next day.
Stan has always told me, "It takes five years until you really start to know what you are doing," and I do not doubt that for one second. It takes time for everything to soak in. My whole process of fitting individuals with transfemoral amputations, for example, has changed drastically in the past three to four months, and I imagine that my approach will continue to evolve as I develop my skills. I am sure that a year from today I will not even recognize the practitioner that I am as I complete my residency. I know I have always tried my best, but looking back I already see times when I could have done better. While I cannot go back and fix what I did yesterday, I can change what I do tomorrow. I will embrace the experiences that come my way-both positive and negative-continue to learn every day, and actively work on making myself better so that I can directly influence the quality of people's lives to the best of my ability and in the positive fashion I know I am capable of.
Thank you for letting me relate my experiences over the past year. It has been personally rewarding to share my thoughts with readers. These columns have allowed me to reflect in a way that I otherwise would not have taken the time to enjoy.
Ronald Dickson is a graduate of the bachelor of science in orthotics and prosthetics program at St. Petersburg College, Florida. He is a resident at Prosthetic and Orthotic Associates, Orlando, Florida, and has been sharing his experiences as he completes his residency.