As I sit here writing late at night, my silly mistakes on radiology reports cross my mind. I can laugh about them now. But, when you first hear about them, they feel somewhat awkward. And, I’m sure that you know what I mean. That prostate gland can become a uterus. Or, you pronounce a pregnancy on a patient with ascites. Maybe, you say you saw a gallbladder in a patient with a prior cholecystectomy. It’s just a matter of time before it happens to you. If it doesn’t, you probably have not read enough scans! So, what are some of the ways that you can make this experience a bit more comfortable? Here are some of my main words of advice to prevent you from being too hard on yourself.
Don’t Take Yourself Too Seriously
In the medical profession, many physicians tie their identities to perfection. Many of us encounter these physicians in medical school and our residency training. They tend to be miserable people. However, self-aware physicians will never make this mistake. We have to be able to admit that we will have our errors. And, if you do not make your identity into perfection, you will look back and figure out how you made the silly errors you did. You might even laugh about them and enjoy the irony!
Realize Mistakes Will Happen
It’s not just a perfection issue. When you interpret enough films or perform more than your fair share of procedures, statistics say that you will make a silly mistake or two. We can’t beat the numbers. And, the sooner we get through that notion, the happier we will be.
Silly Mistakes Are Learning Experiences
I found that each mistake is a learning experience, silly or not. When I think about how, when, and where I made a mistake, I understand the conditions that caused the problem. Did I go through a case too fast because it was the end of the day? Under what circumstances did I forget to look at the patient’s sex? Was I interrupted or too tired? Did I miss a finding because I neglected my search pattern, or was it a lack of knowledge in a particular area? Each of these questions allows us to delve deeper into the circumstances of an error and forces us to confront the truths so that it won’t happen again.
Silly Mistakes Can Be Teaching Tools!
Instead of covering up my silly mistakes, I tend to use them as teaching points for others. These moments can be some of the most fun teaching tools. Moreover, they can make great stories. Who doesn’t like an excellent allegory to make that point stick? I know that if I heard one of these ridiculous errors, I would have been much less likely to do the same.
Yes, You Are Allowed To Talk About Your Silly Mistakes!
We are all human. When you dictate 10,000 reports and each report contains 100 words, that’s a million words. Just by sheer statistics alone, it’s only a matter of time before you say something ridiculous in one of those million words. So, get off your high horse and own your silly mistakes. At least, make them into something useful!