As I got ready to clock out for the night, I was paged by the surgeon to assess an emergent case in the surgical ward. A plan was set: we would rendez-vous upstairs to speak with the patient and review the chart.
The polaroid snapshot of the injury slowly faded into view as the patient told his story: a high impact trauma to the upper leg…non-weight-bearing…decreased mechanical function…swelling…pain…
Emergency physicians had already ordered x-rays an hour before; the scans and the radiologist’s report would be available on the computer by this time. However, when a picture is worth a thousand words, a radiologist’s report really does not do it justice.
In one word, it was “bad.”
The thing to keep in mind is that during your training, you are constantly supervised: your work is evaluated and checked; your reasoning and thought process is scrutinized. You are constantly given feedback as to what you are doing well, what you need improvements on, and what steps you should take to make those improvements.
There is a lot of educational cycles you go through that prepare you to work independently. It is through this period that you learn from your mistakes. You learn how to cover your bases, to rule out life threatening conditions, to understand prioritization, to do a proper work up.
Everybody is only human. Nobody is perfect. Take it from Dr. Brian Goldman. I set high standards for myself that can be both good and bad. It can be quite hard on myself when moments do not move smoothly, but it is also what motivates me to try to learn from those moments. If I can learn from those mistakes now, I can reduce the possibility of something going awry in the future. I resign myself to the idea of doing my best to prepare myself, and eventually let the training and experience run its course and guide me.
You cannot predict the outcome of everything, and sometimes through factors within and without, mistakes can be made. I stay on the level and humble that there are things I am uncomfortable with, things that I do not know, and things beyond my control. Keeping that healthy dose of caution and knowing where your limits are also helps to protect yourself and also your patient from harm.