Thursday, November 09, 2006

To Err, is Human?

Everyone's entitled to make mistakes right? After all, we're just human. You know, forgetting to do something, or doing the wrong thing. With meetings, patient appointments, paperwork, labwork, manuscripts, phonecall and pages, it's inevitable. And I'm not even talking about the lack of sleep yet.
But when you're someone's physician, and you make a mistake regarding a patient, even if it's a minor issue, it makes you feel like the most incompetent, stupid and dangerous doctor around. Even if you were a superstar physician and saved lives just a day before. It make you feel like shit. Literally. You feel like crawling back into bed, or hiding in the bathroom, or just simply disappearing. You feel angry that such a thing could have happened. That you could have overlooked that. And you have trouble forgiving yourself. It spoils your entire day.
I know doctors are still humans though we like to play God, and that implies we make mistakes, but unfortunately (or fortunately?) the medical, legal systems and our own expectations of ourselves don't quite allow that yet. We expect perfection. And when patients depend on me, I expect to give nothing less.
Yes, I had such a day today. On days like this, you begin to question everything you do. When I was an intern many many years ago, I even had what I called the Black Book. A list of last names, dates and mistakes I made while looking after patients. Forgetting to check the INR before a procedure, writing the wrong dose, misreading results of tests. I did it to help me learn, to never make mistakes again. But as my friend said, I was just tormenting myself. So I finally stopped keeping record.
It takes just one mistake to undo the good you feel from the week's work.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Strongly agree. It just takes one mistake to change your good impression in front of others.

9:39 PM  
Blogger Mei said...

My ultimate fear... worded perfectly. Just how do you handle that? I've been searching for an answer for the longest time.

Cause I know I'll be harsh on myself, and it's just gonna be detrimental to me in the long run **in some ways**

2:06 AM  
Anonymous NUNG said...

Well, everyone from a great chef to President makes mistakes. We are all here to learn, no matter how much experience we have. Actually we learn the most from our mistakes and the best way to deal with it is to just admit the mistake, learn from it and somehow give it back to society. That was just my 2 cents.
Great blogs !

8:14 AM  
Blogger doc said...

i can't remember where i read this from, but idealistic & harsh as it may sound, there's some truth in it :

"only a fool learns from his own mistakes, for a wise man learns from the mistakes of others"

PS. if i had done what you did, my black book would resemble harrison's textbook of internal medicine, & going by the above saying, i'm a fool many times over.

9:29 AM  
Blogger sin, redeemed said...

that's how i felt today....such days are sad... i think i'm having early dementia which is affecting my memory and executive functions!!! =P

but i guess we'll all have to be trained to learn the hard lesson of forgiving ourselves. no like..

7:03 PM  
Blogger Gina said...

I watch hospital based TV shows and movies and think to myself, "...and I felt like crap when I transposed a number and cost my company $10,000..."

Having someone's life in your hands is so scary! Your mistake could be a life, a million dollar law suit or a plain and simple guilty-gut the rest of the month. I admire you and all folks in your line of work. Yeah, the paycheck is nice, but it's certainly not enough to cover the ulcers created from so much stress, guilt and anxiety!

12:15 AM  
Blogger just me said...

Docs are human too. Don't be too hard on yourself.
Think of all the lives saved because of you.

6:18 AM  
Blogger Palmdoc said...

Hi. Just to let you know your post is #1 in our 2nd Malaysian Medical Resources Blogrounds

4:53 PM  

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