Learning From Mistakes

Over the Memorial Day weekend, we spent a couple of days off up in Northern Wisconsin at our lake house.  It is a wonderful retreat, allowing me to relax and recharge over the three days of peace and tranquility.  However, for a couple distinct blocks of time I was occupied with addressing mechanical issues involving our boat.  First, there was an issue with a dead battery that had to be recharged overnight before we launched from the boat ramp.  The following day, due to high winds and waves, the boat was blown back over the ski rope and it was sucked into the impeller drive of the boat.  For the second year in a row, I spent a couple of hours under the boat on the lift, this time pulling out the badly snagged and spooled rope.  Last year, a small piece of driftwood jammed itself firmly into the blades of the impeller, rendering the boat incapable of propulsion (the impeller is a spinning shaft and fan underneath a jet boat which propels it through the water).  It’s frustrating sometimes to deal with mechanical setbacks and working to solve an immediate problem when you should be relaxing.

When I first began to encounter these problems, my initial response was to be embarrassed and ashamed that I somehow “allowed” these complications and issues to occur.  After talking with many of my boating brethren however, I felt better hearing others recount the stories of their own mistakes and shortcomings.  I couldn’t help but draw some parallels to our practices in medicine.  Whenever I have had a patient situation that didn’t go according to plan clinically or an unpleasant interpersonal interaction, it was tempting to internalize it and feel that I am the only doctor that has encountered these circumstances and “fell short,” so to speak.  In fact, we all need to examine our humanity and humility, knowing that we are all a part of the greater community of healers.  I always learn the most from the cases that had an undesirable turn of events.

Have you had a recent clinical situation or personal issue that caused you to feel ashamed, like you didn’t measure up to the standards that you have set for yourself?  How did you move forward and grow from the challenge?


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