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Thursday, May 28, 2015

The Right to Fail – Should We Give it to Doctors?

No one goes out of their way to be bad at their job. But when you’ve settled into your routine, the grinding repetition of chores can wear you down. In the medical profession, a lack of alertness through boredom can be disastrous – for both doctors and patients.

Despite popular belief, doctors are allowed to make mistakes. There may be a misdiagnoses here or a poor bedside manner there but, provided your mistakes don’t derive from apathy, there are always safeguards in place. 

The General Medical Council (GMC) asked medical student Lucy-Anne Webb about the pressures of making mistakes in the medical world: “The unwillingness of medics (students and doctors alike) to discuss mistakes or misunderstandings with colleagues for fear of being judged and the highly self-critical nature with which we conduct ourselves is prevalent and apparent in the medical community.”

In a culture where medical professionals feel judged for the occasional misstep, the fear of failure can be crippling – and place patients in grave danger.

The consultation fix

Without consultation and discussion, the medical world would never have progressed beyond leeches to cure the plague. Your entire career should act like a medical journal, peer reviewed at every juncture and improved upon with every input.

Indeed, you don’t have to wait for criticism. A number of doctors appraisal experts can give you a helping hand, for a small fee. This is a vital process showing the GMC that you’re still fit to practice and can maintain modern medical standards.

While the foundations of your training will always be relevant, the goalposts are always moving when it comes to the nuances of rules and regulations. With regular input from appraisal experts, failure need not be a career killer.

A fallible professional

It’s understandable that the transparency to show failures makes a number of hospital executives anxious, especially in Britain, where NHS figures are continually skewed by the media and politicians.

With an increased openness to admit failure comes a greater number of opportunities to portray the NHS as a beleaguered institution.

But mistakes are leading to a wasteful medical industry. In the US, for instance, one in every three dollars is spent on fixing previous errors. Moreover, around 1.2 million incidents are reported on the NHS every year.

For the general public, admitting that your doctor is fallible is an understandable struggle. Television shows like House show a Sherlock-like god figure as doctor. He can sniff out illness like a drug detection dog can sniff cocaine. Yet these lofty portrayals are ultimately harmful to the practice in general.

With increased communication within the medical community and greater transparency with the public, people might begin to appreciate the fallibility of medical practitioners.

Written by Paul Watson.

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