I have to say that casting day has been one of the most fun days I have had to date in the Duke Physician Assistant Program. Learning a manual skill like applying a cast gives you a chance to get out of your headspace and do something with your hands. After a week of lectures, surgery Fridays are setting up to be a much appreciated change of pace.
For me, making the cast felt kind of like molding a piece of art. Each member of our surgery group made two short casts, one for the wrist and one for the ankle. Our instructors were quick to set up a relaxed learning environment with a few jokes and after a demonstration of the skill, were readily available to help us. We all sat in a circle around the room and casted a classmate. Everyone seemed very excited and proud of their work. Sometimes having something tangible to show for your efforts just feels nice!
For those of us who have never had to have a cast, it was nice to get an idea of what our patients experience when they have a joint immobilized in this way. Our instructors were careful to point out the “patient comfort” aspects of casting and showed us some tricks to make casts more tolerable for the patient.
In addition, we all experienced what it was like to operate a cast saw as well as have a cast sawed off. I have to admit that I was a bit uneasy at this portion and I could see how this procedure could be disconcerting for a patient. We quickly learned that there is nothing to fear when it comes to the cast saw, it will not cut you! We were able to develop an understanding of good technique with the cast saw that ensures patient comfort.
At the end of the lab, the instructors seemed pleased with our work and assured us that the quality of our current casting skills would “do in a pinch.” Like so many of the technical skills we learn, mastery will require practice, practice, practice!
Although my casts weren’t the prettiest and certainly have room for improvement, at least I know that I could step up to the plate if my skills were called upon. It’s becoming more clear to me that medicine isn’t about knowing everything and being perfect, you just need to know where to start.