Stuck in the middle

“Be the change you wish to see in the world” -Gandhi

These past few years, I have really challenged myself to live by this quote whenever I am tempted to complain about the state of something-or-other. In general, this makes me either: 1)restrain my complaints/judgments/opinions if I’m not willing to do something about it; or 2) work toward a solution. Is it fool-proof? Absolutely not – I still complain about things I will never lift a finger to fix  (more often than I’d like to admit.) But today was the first time I have been faced with a problem I care deeply about, would not hesitate to complain loudly about, and yet when I asked myself “how can I be this change?” I had absolutely no idea. Not only did I feel helpless, but every idea that entered my head was instantly followed by “you would never be allowed to do that;” “that could jeopardize your grades;” “you may be yelled at;” “the system just won’t work that way.”

The topic? Patient safety of course! I am moved by the staggering statistics and personal stories of medical error. I would 100% complain about the state of patient safety in American Healthcare. I would also 100% want to help change this culture…yet I feel stuck in the middle. Stuck in the middle between knowledge and action. It’s like I’ve been given this great insight and passion without an outlet. As a student I feel very privileged to have access to this information and strategies for how to reduce medical error – I know many of my colleagues do not. However, as we discuss the overhaul that needs to happen within the American healthcare system, I realize that as a medical student, the waves I can make more closely resemble the ripples of a small stone thrown into the ocean on an already windy day.

With all these thoughts churning in my head, I was very appreciative for the chance to discuss my feelings of being helplessly stuck. After the day’s activities ended, I was privileged to pose my concerns in a small group setting. It was encouraging to hear that yes, as a student, there are significant limitations to how much I can “change the world.” But it was even more encouraging to be given ideas for what I can do – educate those I come in contact with, respect my patients and coworkers, research topics of patient safety, etc.

So while I may be stuck in the middle between knowledge and power to enforce change, I am ok with that because I know regardless of my station in life, I have the ability to share with others what I’ve learned and hopefully enable them to make the major changes.