Wednesday, 18 March 2015

Learning Not to Suck

I just read something I think is really quite profound. It said "the path to not sucking always starts with sucking"
It's from a 2011 article by Lisa Chu on a blog called "Medcrunch". The article is about making mistakes and medicine's culture of shame.

Two things have come together to make this pertinent for me.

First came news of tragic deaths of four young Australian doctors earlier this year.
Second there's the doctor's group I joined recently which seriously upset me for a while, leaving me questioning my competence in the context of all these incredibly clever doctors telling tales of great clinical successes and displaying evidence of comprehensive knowledge of every aspect of medicine. It feels like being an intern all over again.

Lisa Chu is a medical graduate and a life coach who focuses in her work on encouraging people to live more creatively. She suggests that the pressure on medical students to perform perfectly from the first day at medical school is the most salient thing underpinning burnout in medical practitioners. She claims that medical training is a just performance environment and that all our learning is done in privacy and in fear.
Lisa suggest we need to approach medical learning more creatively and to talk openly about the things that go wrong so that we, and others, can learn from them.
From that we might also learn that we are no more or less human than our peers.
What do you think?
Do we talk openly enough about the things that go wrong in our practice?
Would it be as useful to do so as it is to brag about the things that go right?


Anonymous said...

A related issue - medical training with its emphasis on perfection makes it difficult for doctors to see there own mistakes. The capacity for the human mind to perceive things as they "should be" rather than as they really are and to create patterns where there are none, never ceases to amaze me.
Medical training encourages blaming external factors and especially the patients - "the knee replacement worked perfectly (but the patient was incapacitated by a post-operative stroke)." Introspection and critical analysis are difficult to maintain when there is some much information and so many hoops to jump!

Genevieve Yates said...

I liked the "path to not sucking" quote, although my mind briefly wandered to the Freudian side of the interpretation fence to after reading it. :-) I LOVE talking about my mistakes and have made a career in medical education and medical writing out of doing just that. Sometimes I share in a serious vein, at other times using self-deprecating humour. My Australian Doctor editor once said to me "Aren't you worried that people will think you're a bad doctor?" It took me aback - hadn't even crossed my mind. I replied "I trust it will make my colleagues think I'm human." Is very powerful for registrars - helps foster an open culture of admitting errors, asking for help and getting support from each other when needed.