Surgeons, as a whole, are not the jerks you see on television. They are the jerks you see in the OR. Kidding! Really! Some of my best friends are surgeons! (Look. There are jerks in every field.) However. Surgeons, I’m going to fathom, are the most direct of the Homo sapien medicus sub-species. This took some getting used to.
“You’re holding this wrong.” “You’re moving too fast. It’s making me sick.” “Stand up straight and ask them to raise the table.” “No, that’s incorrect.” “No, that’s absolutely contra-indicated. That is the last thing you’d want to do.” There seems to be less gray in the surgical mind than is in mine right now, and for the first couple of days, I took all these direct challenges to my actions as a put-down to my post-Boards medical self-esteem. It’s not an uncommon association we make: someone gives us direct, blatant feedback about our actions, and we take it personally. This is totally inaccurate, however, in my experience so far.
If you make a mistake, or do something incorrectly, you’re being told how to do it correctly in the future. In surgery, if you fall down, you get back up, take a deep breath, and keep moving cautiously. As my chief relayed some advice for medicine in general to me: “What’s the worst thing a chess player can do when he knows he just made a mistake? Rush his next move and make another mistake.” We’re human, unfortunately. We have that whole “imperfection” thing going pretty strong for us. But it’s the actions that follow that are much more important to both the patient’s and the doctor’s success.
Mistakes are always worse if you never analyze them to learn from them.