How to be a wallflower, a sponge and a chameleon

Radiation Therapy students have a lot of things to think about during their clinical work placements. We are given the privilege to be in the cancer centre on the treatment units where we get to interact with other radiation therapists, healthcare workers and patients. During this time we learn how to communicate, think and behave in this very fast-paced, intense, and sometimes fragile environment. Speaking to my classmates and based on my own experiences in the clinic so far, I am seeing some conflict and some consistency on what our educators suggest when it comes to being a student in the clinic. In a summative manner, we have been told to figure out how to be a wallflower, a sponge and a chameleon.

How is it that we can successfully be all three of these things? Here is what I have gathered so far.

How to be a wallflower:

Defined as “a person who from shyness or unpopularity remains on the sidelines”.

In the world of a BCIT Radiation Therapy student this basically means you are the odd man out, the one who doesn’t know what they are doing or doesn’t have the authority to get too involved. Therefore the successful way to be a wallflower involves remaining on the sidelines and observing what others do, listening to conversations while avoiding jumping in and making note of all that is happening in front of you.

How to be a sponge:

I was told early on that the best way to approach my learning in the clinical setting is to be a sponge. This means absorbing everything that is going on around me and holding on to all of these experiences. Remembering what is being said, how it is being said and why. Taking note of techniques, styles and protocols that are being practiced around you and remembering it all. There are a few things about being a sponge that I find particularly difficult. The first is knowing what details are important and which ones are not. Like a traditional sponge, we only have some much space for information before some things start to leak out and since almost everything is new there tends to be a bit of an information overload and my sponge ends up waterlogged.

How to be a chameleon:

This is the concept of being noticed but not getting in the way. As a student we must be active observers who at the same time do not interfere with the integrity of the treatment process. We are welcomed to ask questions and encouraged to participate but all of this must be done when the timing is appropriate and in a manner that reflects our level of knowledge.

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