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How do we make feedback meaningful?

BMJ 2020; 368 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.m17 (Published 07 January 2020) Cite this as: BMJ 2020;368:m17

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Re: How do we make feedback meaningful?

Dear Editor

Womersley and Ripullone's thoughtful reflection on the surfeit of feedback requirements for doctors of all grades raises an important subject. How much time in a responsible clinician's career is now consumed by mandated 'process' - of frequently poor value, with a weak evidence base? In the past (dark ages ..?), doubtless ghastly destructive comments were commonplace - although the recipients of such bile were usually more than aware of the reputation of the perpetrators, and in the majority of cases dumped such negative feedback in the mental file that it deserved. Of much more value was the constructive, supportive yet honest support that generations of wise senior colleagues offered me and those around me. It did not take a course in human perception to discern who amongst my erstwhile seniors to treat as role models and guides towards a professional practice anchored in humanity and careful judgement. That I have had my fair share of failures is not, I believe, a failure to have a more systematic application of endless 'feedback loops'.

As for poorly delivered criticism, I suggest the use of every means possible to avoid it's destructive effect, and perhaps work to eliminate it for future people in similar positions.

So to the two brave young doctors who have written this article, my advice is as it has been for many years; spend as much time as you can with those whose humanity and ability you perceive as valuable, always aware of the fact that no-one possesses all you require and there are hopefully always good supporters around the corner to add to the sum of your professional experience. Treat mandatory feedback requirements with discernment; those that truly matter deserve care and attention. The rest .. 'circular file' or delete button as rapidly as you can hit it.

Competing interests: No competing interests

13 January 2020
Tim E Goodacre
Plastic Surgeon
Oxford