Whether you are a medical student just starting on your anaesthesia journey or an experienced specialist, focus more on a diligent, mindful process rather than the outcome.

I was recently supervising an exceptional trainee. He did everything right to make the most from our operative list together. He texted me the night before with things he wanted to learn, He arrived early to the list and had everything checked and set up. I was really impressed with his motivation and assertiveness and knew he would have a rapid learning curve. Now as it happened he also missed an intravenous cannula and wasn’t able to insert the spinal needle. What was really interesting was that this was quite upsetting for my trainee but my impression was that he was very competent and reliable doctor in training.

My assessment of his ability and his assessment of his ability were worlds apart!

I now think back to my own training, and how important it seemed that we are always ‘successful’. We are praised for success and often berated if we don’t succeed, even though many of our technical tasks as anaesthetists can be very humbling.

While we do improve over time, there will be some veins that we just fail to access, arterial lines that never seem to thread and spinals where we just aren’t able to find a route into that elusive intrathecal space.

But what I suggested to my trainee is that the path to success isn’t repeated success…

The path to success is a diligent process of repeated failure

I could now write a whole bunch of cliches or post some inspirational memes proving my point but you’ve probably already seen these, but one does stick to mind… you would never think an infant failed as they stumbled trying to walk. It is simply the process that gets us to a point of competence.

I hope that most of us (trainees and supervisors) realise the critical important of rewarding a diligent process and showing very little if any frustration or negativity if the initial outcome isn’t success.

I believe that this would foster a more productive culture for learning, development and welfare.

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