I remember him standing there telling the story, with a million-dollar grin and perfectly white teeth. He was the kind of man who life likely came easily for. He was tall, attractive, charismatic, and carried himself with such an air of confidence that I wondered if his feet merely scraped the ground as he floated through life.
Today, his eyes were wild with both excitement and passion retelling his latest escapade. He recently joined our anesthesia group, some sort of enigma CRNA that was a peripheral nerve block expert. During this time, the culture of anesthesia was slowly shifting towards embracing regional anesthesia and our own Rico Suave was an expert (self-proclaimed). His story, which involved a lot of hand gestures, and likely a few intermittent pauses for us to pat him on the back, recalled him teaching a cluster of our physician anesthesiologist colleagues a new block. I asked him how long he had done these blocks, and he looked me dead in the eye and said, “today was my first one. I watched a YouTube video last night.”
My heart sank, and I don’t know if what I felt was anger or embarrassment or something else entirely. Where did this guy get off self-declaring himself on expert with no foundation to his claims?
Years later, I conducted a research project which incidentally found that females perceive themselves to be less competent performing peripheral nerve blocks. I thought back to this specific encounter. Confidence does not parallel skill level. However, I have a lingering thought. Would being so bold and so brave enable me to push the limits of my own anesthesia practice? If Rico could proclaim himself a block god, why couldn’t I be an anesthesia goddess?
I don’t mean to bash men. My husband is my best friend and is a silent but firm ally on my quest with EmpowHER. I also don’t think I’m at the point in my life or career where I want to burn my bras (they were very expensive). But women too often bear an additional silent burden that I wonder if my incidental research findings are a symptom of a large issue. Not only are we working professional women in a highly stressful and demanding job, but we have not relinquished much in regards to our other work-the mental and physical workload of balancing a career, a home life, raising children, staying hydrated, and exercising on a regular basis. We can’t forget our friends and extended family either. There is always a present to buy or a card that needs to be mailed. Is this why I can’t allow myself to YouTube a block and stake my flag in the mountain of anesthesia excellence? Because my brain is already at capacity that this proclamation seems like too heavy a burden to carry...
(To be continued)