Saying Sorry

I was particularly struck today by some of the discussions centered around how healthcare providers can begin to make amends for mistakes through open, honest communication with patients, their families, our colleagues, and ourselves. As a rising second year medical student, the past year was focused on learning everything “the right way.” We’ve been trained so far to accumulate a toolkit of basic science information, and to use that to pick the best multiple choice answer to a question. In some ways, I feel like this type of thinking is almost moving me further away from being a compassionate caregiver, capable of owning up to mistakes and admitting when I was wrong.

 

Until today, I haven’t really grappled with the idea that I could make a serious error that could affect (or take) a life. When reviewing exams, wrong answers on questions usually have a relatively simple explanation- the root cause is either that it was phrased unfairly (which students usually hope for) or that I failed to learn something on a particular PowerPoint slide. As we discussed today, the root cause(s) for medical errors can stem far beyond just one individual person, and require complete system overhauls.

 

Although the blame should never fall solely on one provider, I hope that I am brave enough in the future to immediately own up to my mistakes in hopes that I will build a stronger rapport with my patients and help to educate others how to avoid errors that I will undoubtedly make. As the QI/PS culture continues to grow, and we add more layers of Swiss Cheese to our defense, I hope that I am never faced with such serious consequences as we saw in today’s lessons. I want to do all I can to avoid preventable errors, but understand that “to err is human,” and even for small mistakes I hope I can have the integrity to come forward with them to further medical education, and to make amends to patients and their families, no matter how small the incident.

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