Be hard on the problem & soft on the person

“Be hard on the problem & soft on the person.” – Paul Levy during small group break out on transparency today

These words stuck with me after our break out discussions early this morning. In acknowledging a systemic error, we acknowledge that the situation could of happened to anyone – they just happened to be in the wrong place, the wrong time. In accepting this culture where this would be the norm, we have to break away from our traditional deny & defend culture.

We have been discussing a lot about changing the culture from within, but it occurred to me that we are also facing a force from the external – the patients, their families & society’s perception. We must erase this idea that we are perfect & infallible. Although we acknowledge the difficulties we face within the system, I can’t help but think about my Grandmother (as well as all others with her misperception.) When my Grandfather was sick, she turned whole-heartedley to the healthcare system believing that physicians were Gods. It’s not her fault, or any others that we have created such an image, so every interaction she has she takes their words as gospel. I now face the daunting task as entering into my second year of medical school helping her to understand that healthcare professionals are not perfect, as I am living breathing proof of future imperfection.

It’s a hard pill to swallow though, I will admit I am competitive at my core. John Nance mentioned today that our greatest threat is the failure to infuse urgency into the front line, we must chance the way we teach, promoting teamwork. Even in my first year of medical school, we had attempts at teamwork and small groups to promote a team environment. But what was my overall take away of what my first year was full of? Studying, studying, studying & then taking an exam. What do exams harbor? Competition amongst ourself, we’re graded on how many few mistakes we make. It breeds a culture of perfection. Sure we offer exam reviews, that are of course non-mandatory. What if we were required to work in groups through exam reviews, professors were present to listen to questions we had – what message would we change ? Would we feel so isolated & felt required of perfection?