Call Me If You Need Anything

A point that often comes up as a fault in medical training is that we must be independent decision makers and learn to function on our own. When stuck with a troubling decision or question, residents all too often fail to call for help when needed. Even the most well intentioned attending physician plays into the culture of not showing weakness or indecisiveness. A young house officer at the start of his or her night may be told “really, anything you need, it’s ok to wake me up, just call” and still will internalize that as “If I need something, I have failed”.

A better way might be to develop the expectation that a call is made, maybe it’s always at a set time, a change in status, or a certain level of decision making. It may feel like it is stifling autonomy, but it doesn’t have to be. Remove the ambiguity and standardize the process.

A pilot doesn’t call air traffic control only when they’re in doubt, but rather checks in at specifically defined points to assure they’re on course. We should view supervision and calling to check in or ask for help not as having someone takeover the plane from us, but as a check in with our guide. One with whom we share our coordinates and our heading to make sure we’re still on the safest course.

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