The biggest struggle I have had so far as a young professional Athletic Trainer is the ability to balance being a mentor for undergraduate students, but also wanting to continue to learn to better myself as a clinician. Many times throughout the preseason of this year at Indiana State University I have had the chance to work with many athletes who experienced various injuries. These experiences are definitely rewarding. Being fresh out of undergrad and on my own, I want to work with every athlete and handle every case that comes up. However, since I am at a university with a CAATE accredited professional program, there are students that also need the experience and need to be mentored, just as I was during my education. It is difficult to let go of the reins on an evaluation and let the student take the lead. In my head I’m screaming “No, you need this experience on your own! It will help you become a better clinician!” But at the same time I know that instructing undergraduates will also benefit me clinically and will also benefit the teams when efficiency and numbers are needed when the athletic training room is very busy.
I have come to find that occasionally I will selfishly take on a number of patients on my own, just to test my will and ability to multitask in the athletic training room. This is beneficial for me, but these actions can drive your students away from you and also leave them with nothing to learn. I have deterred from these methods the past few weeks, and instead I have used a collaborative approach with my students whenever there is a moment where they can learn. This too is also rewarding, in the fact that you see these young athletic training students grow into better clinicians and leaders in their program.
This growth normally develops after taking a class, studying, and then applying that knowledge in the athletic training room. Well, I will be finding myself on the other side of the desk this year, not only as I balance working with students in the clinic and on the field, but also in the classroom as an anatomy lab instructor. Now I’M the teacher, when only a few months ago I was the student. This adjustment will probably be the most stressful, but also the most fun. It is funny how stress and enjoyment can come together to create an amazing working environment, and I am up for the challenge.
I am excited to see where this position at Indiana State University will take me, but I am also eager to see where the undergraduate students will go, to advocate for the profession as young professionals. I am also beginning to see that I don’t really have to be working alone in order to have a worthwhile experience; it is truly how you gain the knowledge needed that is the most pivitol key that drives the learning process. The Athletic Training dichotomy: you are a teacher, yet you will always be a student. The fact that I can learn something new everyday is what makes the athletic training profession so rewarding.
Nicolás C. Merritt