Four steps to dealing with criticism so YOU profit from it

Every time you end your shift, you’ll be criticised. Your colleagues and bosses try to understand why you did what you did.

That’s why they will question why you

  • initiated this diagnostic procedure
  • started that therapeutic regimen
  • established this diagnosis
  • or didn’t do all of the above.

That’s OK: Three doctors, four opinions. However, many doctors take that form of criticism personal and react defensive. Here are my four steps to handling criticism, so you profit from it:

1. Be thankful for any form of criticism.

It seldom feels good at the time, but it definitely helps you and the patient. Every form of feedback urges us to reflect on how we handled a certain situation.

Even if you disapprove of the form or the content of the feedback, you should acknowledge that a thorough analysis of the situation is necessary and helpful.

Only if you are willing to carefully analyse the situation again you can learn something from it.

2.  Now look at the situation.

Now the bare facts, all emotions aside! Is the critic right? Based on the information you had when you made the decision should you have acted differently?

If so, what led you to decide differently?
Was it false analysis of the available facts?
Fear?Emotions?

It’s really important to find out why you made a mistake in order to avoid it in the future.

3. Admit mistakes:

The reason why it’s so difficult in medicine to admit mistakes is because in many cases that means we have physically harmed someone. No one likes to admit that.
The fact is: you probably won’t be fired or sued for (non-fatal) mistakes.

But it really gets on people’s nerves when you can’t admit your mistakes. (Trust me…) The best doctors I know acknowledge from time to time: “I made a mistake! I should have handled this differently.” This is no drama. We are all human, at least all we non-neurosurgeons 😉

This doesn’t hurt you, it shows strengths. And it creates an environment where people like to work.

4. Don’t be too hard on yourself:

Especially in medicine it’s always easier to know what would have been the right approach to a certain situation,  when you have all the information.
24h after a patient was admitted to the ICU everything looks different:
Lots of additional information is available:

  • the results of numerous examinations
  • patient’s response to a treatment
  • the complete history

This always is the moment of glory for every smartypants, who now knows what you should have done. They’ll always be around. Odds are, they don’t have anything else to show for, so don’t let that pull you down.

How do you respond to criticism? Please leave a comment below…

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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