An ER Doctor’s 10 Best Visualization Techniques to Prepare for a Challenge
Use these strategies to supercharge your mental training
Visualization — picturing ourselves going through routines to improve our chances of success — is a tool used by Olympians, skilled negotiators, musicians, astronauts, and many others. That’s because it works: In one Harvard Medical School study, researchers found that the brain activity of people who just thought through a piano exercise was similar to the brain activity of those who actually played. Plenty of other research has demonstrated that visualization can act as a rehearsal for a real-life activity, helping people develop new skills faster and stay calm under pressure.
In the world of emergency medicine, we routinely use visualization to practice for critical events and identify possible gaps in knowledge or resources. As an emergency doctor, I appreciate the fact that I can do it anytime or anywhere — I’ll often mentally rehearse various procedures while drinking my morning coffee before my shift.
No matter what you are trying to accomplish, visualization can and should be a part of your preparation. Here are 10 of my favorite visualization techniques to supercharge your mental training.
Go step by step
Consider a very common procedure in the ER: stitching up a cut on someone’s hand. If you’re just getting started with visualization, your instinct might be to think about the type of stitches you’ll use, how you’ll hold the needle, and how you’ll close the wound. The big-picture stuff.
But a more effective technique is to start your visualization from the very beginning and work through, in excruciating detail, every single step required to successfully perform the procedure. When you walk into the room, what exactly are you carrying? When you clean the cut, what will you use? How will the patient’s hand be positioned? Which needle will you use? How many packages of suture will you need? What bandage will you apply at the end?
When you’re this meticulous, you won’t overlook the less-obvious steps. You might discover that you would have forgotten to bring a key piece of equipment into the room, or to check if your patient was allergic…