Intended for healthcare professionals

Views & Reviews From the Frontline

The error of our ways

BMJ 2011; 342 doi: (Published 29 June 2011) Cite this as: BMJ 2011;342:d4082

Onwards and Upwards!

Des Spence's column this week resonated with me greatly. I suspect I
will not be the only one who felt so compelled to respond. A quote from
Henry David Thoreau encapsulates his article perfectly - 'The mass of men
lead lives of quiet desperation.' Indeed, it is this quiet desperation
that we universally as doctors have: the sweaty palms before your first
chest drain, the ploughing through textbooks compulsively checking for any
lapses in judgement - I think we have all been there.

But equally I think it is important that we acknowledge that it is
healthy, in fact essential, to be so burdened. If we lost all conscience,
perhaps we would sleep better at night, but we would also lose the very
motivation that brought us into medicine in the first place - wanting to
do our fellow human good. It is the very thing that propels us to work
hard towards achieving the best for our patients. We should not dissuade
doubt, only to recognise its value, and educate each other that we can
turn it around and maximise it as a catalyst for achieving good clinical
practice. Onwards and upwards!

Competing interests: No competing interests

01 July 2011
Elza JE Tjio
Core Surgical Trainee Year 1
Royal Cornwall Hospital, Truro, Cornwall