Dealing With Mistakes

Posted: Mar 18, 2014
Views: 3923 - Comments: 4

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I’m sure this comes as a surprise to many of you, but I am not perfect. Please read that first sentence with as much sarcasm as you can muster! Perfection is a far-off goal, something we all strive for in our jobs, but if you focus too much on perfection you’re setting yourself up for a rough life. As Avi is fond of saying, it’s the PRACTICE of medicine. None of us have it down perfect, we are always practicing.

Megan Brashear in a video at DoveLewis, performing a simple interrupted suture pattern.I made a mistake on a "Simple Interrupted Suture" video. In one of the throws I wrapped the suture the wrong way around the needle drivers. All videos go through a review process, so it’s not just me who watches myself and says, “You’re AWESOME good job!” But again, that perfection is still a goal! Thanks to a couple of astute members who watched that video, my mistake was caught! So I asked the uber-talented Coby Richter to re-shoot the video. Since she’s so awesome, she did, and the video now shows the 100% correct way to perform a simple interrupted suture pattern, correct knots and all. Am I embarrassed about it? A little. But you know what? I’m now even MORE aware of my knot-tying when I’m suturing a feeding tube to a cat’s nose.

That’s the thing about medicine, leadership, life… You’ve got to stay humble and flexible and willing to admit when you’re wrong. If you can’t admit a mistake you’re not only missing an opportunity to grow, you might be putting a patient in danger. Or a relationship in danger. Or your team in danger of losing trust in you.

I once made a GIANT mistake as a manager: I didn’t closely monitor the technician overtime budget and we used all of our overtime money halfway through the year. I had to gather the technician team together and tell them we had to put a freeze on overtime for the next six months. That meant reducing vacations to almost none. It was awful. Thank goodness Monica was by my side, taking half of the blame (although she didn’t need to), but I sat in front of that team and told them “I made a mistake, I didn’t see it coming, and sorry but your vacations are on hold because of it.” It was rough, but it all went better than I thought it would and I think that’s because I just owned up to it. Now, if I did that every year there’s no way they’d still be talking to me, but I learned - we ALL learned - and it hasn’t happened since!

Embarrassing as it may be, own up to your mistakes. Even all of you who have been doing this for 14+ years, you will always make mistakes. You’re still practicing. Learn to laugh at yourself when appropriate, humble yourself when you need to, and keep striving for perfection…

Especially with your knot-tying. Watch Dr. Richter do it. She’s great at knots. 



Ashley Franklin's picture

Making a mistake is human. The best thing to do is make as mental note of the mistake, fix it and move on. We always strive for perfection and if we mess up even once it becomes a mark on us. People seems to always remember mistakes more than they remember the 'perfect'.

Megan Brashear's picture

Ashley, I agree that people will always remember mistakes, but they will also remember how you handled your response to a mistake. Be you the mistake maker or the mistake finder, your reaction will make an impact.

Tyler Gemuenden's picture

This is so incredibly important. Not only do we need to own up to our mistakes, but our supervisors need to be understanding and approachable.

Celia Jesmain's picture

This is definitely something I need to keep in mind. I have been making some mistakes recently and I think that I focus so hard on trying to correct the last thing that I completely miss something else. Thank you for the article!