As a follow up to my post last year about how we need to “learn to tolerate failure… even in the medical profession” I wanted to share this TEDx presentation (Doctors make mistakes. Can we talk about that?) from Dr. Brian Goldman (@NightShiftMD). In it Dr. Goldman captures perfectly the flawed logic of how we all try to portray perfection in our work, especially those god like creates called doctors. In business our failures can cost money or even jobs but in medicine our failures can cost lives. And not just the life of patient who suffered from the original error but the lives of other patients based on the repetition of that same error because it is never shared and thus never learned from.
While I think that Dr. Goldman’s presentation is spot on, I feel that it only covers half of the equation. We hope that our doctors will be more humble and mindful in their race to diagnose our illness. And we expect that because of this they will be less “likely” to err. But even the doctor recognizes that medicine is a less than perfect practice. Even a “refined physician” will still make mistakes.
My suggestion is that the other half of this prescription should be that we as patients need to alter our expectations of what medicine is. We know that medicine is part science but we also need to remember that it is still part art. When we expect nothing less than perfection we are not leaving the door open for doctors to admit their mistakes. And whether or not we want to “allow” these mistakes they will still happen. These failures may costs lives and maybe even the lives of our loved ones but that is part of our humanity, that is part of our human condition.
Dr. Goldman defines these new expectations as “the redefined physician” in which a physician is “human, knows she’s human, accepts it … and she works in a culture of medicine that acknowledges that human beings run the system.”
Receive periodic email updates from Matt Hunt including his published pieces, updates on his progress, and more!