In my undergraduate education I would work with my preceptor to communicate with doctors and coaches. Although I was able to engage in communication with athletes, particularly during injury evaluations, I was never able to make the final call for referral or return to play. The Athletic Trainer and I would discuss the injury and possible next steps, yet he or she was the final decision maker for further evaluation. When transitioning to practice, that role of decision maker, comes fast and without warning. Last week, I referred my first patient.
I was covering an away volleyball game when one of the girls exited play with a potentially sprained thumb. She had a previous history of bilateral thumb sprains, but felt more pain with this injury. After an initial evaluation, I decided that it could be a severe sprain or a possible fracture. Although I know I have a support network of classmates, faculty, and supervisors, it was time for me to make a crucial clinical decision. I had to make the correct referral decision. This situation is what I prepared for in my professional program. I have read the material, I have practiced the skills of an injury evaluation, but now it was time to put what I had learned into practice.
The most important thing I learned through this experience is that I’m not alone. That night at the game I was able to contact other Athletic Trainers and seek affirmation. The next day I was able to talk with my supervisor about the decision. I have always been afraid that once I became certified, my colleagues will leave me out to dry, but that is not the case. They want to see me succeed just as much as I want to succeed. I can still ask for advice and affirmation as I transition into the professional world. The relationships I form with colleagues are important to the success of my career. I may still be in the transition phase, but I know that I am not alone. Oh, and in case you’re wondering, I did send the athlete for a radiograph.
-Marissa Yorgey, ATC