Last night, when I was half working, half joking around at the nurses station, the topic came to the quality of the residents these past few months. I know people like to rag on others and tribe mentality is a thing. Plus, I liked many of these nurses, so I mentally and verbally excused myself from the conversation with “earmuffs”, one of my favorite sayings I learned at Emory.
My attention was almost entirely on my work – I was making good progress, still buoyed by the night and the conversation from a few minutes prior. But then came the topic of that intern who gave a patient with an allergy to a substance that substance.
That was me. It had been an accident, just a slip of attention for something I never had paid attention to. Partly because I was inattentive, party because it wasn’t my patient and I didn’t know that about them, partly because EMR had automated all of my checkpoints. I had already told my team and my senior had talked to me about it. It had been a few days later and I didn’t really dwell on it too much after that, beyond vowing to myself to do better.
When the nurse brought up that “idiot intern” as someone who made that allergy mistake (being nice, they all qualified the conversation with “Don’t worry Gazi, you’re one of the good ones”), they laughed about it. My mood shifted dramatically. I don’t think my face showed it and I already wasn’t saying anything, focusing (almost entirely) on my work. But I filled with shame. I felt this frustration, like I was reliving the moment when the nurse had called me and told me what I had done that day. How the patient had glared at me, but calmly and in a steely manner, excused it. How I had felt both relief that the patient wasn’t harmed and humiliation that I was still making such mistakes 3 months in.
I think I have grown from my mistake and I have learned from it – to the extent I work on it in the future. But I didn’t speak up that night at the nurses station to say “That was me.” Because I didn’t know how to follow up. I couldn’t (or could I) say “Yep, that was me” and “…it happens, I’m sorry” or “it happens, please be kinder to people starting off.” I hadn’t interrupted the conversation when it applied to other people and I was in no position to do it now. So I just sat there and pretended to do my work while I hoped that no one would find out.