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Peer Advice: Dealing with Lab Proficiency Nerves


By now, you’ve all had your first lab proficiency, which means you’ve all felt that pre-proficiency anxiety.

Those proficiencies are going to keep coming, so I’ve put together a list of five things my class did (and is still doing) to reduce those nerves.

The first three fall under the category of building your confidence:

The first thing is the most obvious: practice. The labs are open all the time, so if a class is cancelled or dismissed early, take advantage. It’s great to go in on test day and have muscle memory take over.

Second, try to practice with your labmates more often than with random classmates. For now, your ‘patients’ are students in the class above you, but in the future, you will be paired up randomly and one of your labmates will be sitting for you. Take advantage of that and focus on practicing with your labmates beforehand. You can look for each other’s names when filling out the after-hours sign-up sheet, or you can use a lab group chat to plan a time when everyone gets together and rotate partners.

Third, use mock proficiencies. For the SCCO students, I know the two fraternities (OD and BSK) host mock proficiencies. The COP or SPAS should have some of these too. I encourage you to sign up for these, they’re great tools for seeing how you’ll perform under pressure. On the same note, make after-hours practice tougher as you get better at a skill. Once you can consistently perform, add a time limit, or ask a classmate to watch and grade you.

The last two are faster, short term fixes, for when you’ve practiced a lot already but your hands are still too shaky:

Eat a banana. Or any food high in B vitamins. I am honestly not sure if it works, but it doesn’t hurt. They’re supposed to regulate blood sugar and calm your nervous system down.

Take some medication. There are pills that you can take to temporarily subdue anxiety symptoms. You may have known other students who took these for big exams or public speaking. Don’t worry, just because you take one now doesn’t mean you’ll need to take one every time. Eventually your brain will learn that it doesn’t need to get super jumpy before proficiencies.

Keep calm and trust yourself.