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The Art of Cannulation

The following blog is written by Dr Kate van Berkel, a medical intern at Peninsula Health.

“So how long have you been a doctor for?” Andy* asks, as I re-wash my hands and prepare to don a new set of sterile gloves. He needs a drip inserted so that he can have a CT scan, and so far I have tried to insert it twice with no success.

“About 2 months,” I say. “I’m freshly minted.”

My answer to this frequently asked question always feels unsatisfactory. Especially when the patient enquiring is watching me struggle with their procedure.

“I bet it feels like longer, though!” he jokes. He’s right.

The two months I’ve spent working as a doctor have felt incredibly long and incredibly short at the same time. I have often felt out of my depth, stressed, and overwhelmed. Sometimes what may seem like simple, every day requests will take me ages to complete as they are new to me, and I need to double and triple check medication doses, fluid orders, and blood tests to ensure my patient is well looked after. There have been many late nights catching up on paperwork, many phone calls to senior staff to ask for help, and many missed cannulas like Andy’s.

But in these two months of inexperience and trepidation I have also had an absolute blast. I have been supported by senior medical staff, and expertly guided by my nursing, pharmacy, and allied health colleagues. The positive, team environment on the ward in which I work has helped foster my confidence and contributed to tremendous growth in my clinical capabilities. Slowly, but surely, I am becoming more comfortable making clinical decisions, and the ‘simple’ requests are becoming more simple. I love this job, and while it is often still scary and demanding I have already learnt so much, and I look forward to learning from my colleagues and my patients for the rest of my medical life.

“Okay, one more sharp scratch, Andy” I warn, needle in hand.

“I have faith in you, doc!” Andy encourages. Thanks to these past two months, I have faith in me, too.

With a swift motion, the needle is in. I draw back on my syringe to check the drip placement, hoping beyond hope that I’ve nailed it this time.

The blood flows. The drip flushes.



Dr Kate van Berkel