“Failure” with our hosts Andy and John with guests Geoff Comp DO and Gita Pensa MD.

Post by Spencer Willette, OMS-IV


We all have and will experience failure in our life. Oftentimes it is how we react to those experiences that largely dictates the outcome. In this episode of EM OVER Easy, live from ACOEP, we start the conversation on the uncomfortable topic of failure.


Who Fails and Why?

Failure is a shared negative experience among humanity. It presents itself in many forms, whether it’s in parenting or playing sports, we all fall short of our goals. No one is perfect and it is the inevitable situation that we ALL experience.

Failure is often a difficult topic of discussion for physicians. We often hear the buzzwords of grit, resilience, and fortitude but failure in medicine is viewed differently than failure in other aspects of life. Uniquely, in the career of medicine, patients are entrusting their health and welfare to our performance. The margin of error is extremely low.


What do we do when we fail?

Initial failure yields a mix of a ton of emotions. Within the workplace, emotions of sadness, shame, and embarrassment can take precedence. Processing what had just occurred is so challenging and you may find yourself defining your self-worth due to that one moment.

First, know that you are much more as a physician than the one case that you may have made a mistake on. You have helped countless patients and one patient cannot define you.

Rest and wait to give yourself time to allow chaos to settle to see a silver lining within a tough situation. The snow always settles in a snowglobe, you just have to give it time to see something beautiful inside. Escape from the whirlwind of thoughts in your mind by going on a walk, working out, fishing, engaging with friends, or by continuing your normal routine outside of medicine. Taking time to let the dust settle can be so helpful to recenter.


Normalize Failure:

So how do you optimize yourself while you wait for the snow to settle? Talk about it.

Set up peer support groups to help normalize this experience. Failure should not be a taboo conversation but instead should be out in the open. Perfection is great, but it’s not always possible. Someone’s failure is not a definition of their practice, it’s something that we all can learn from.

Innately as humans, we are conditioned to view our performance failures as defining moments of our competency as a physician. Having this conversation more often can be beneficial. Be available to listen to others who are going through a difficult time as well. This is how we change the perception of failure.


Take-Home Points:

  1. Failure can lead to some of your biggest successes. Keep the growth mindset.
  2. You are not the only one who has made that mistake.
  3. Start the conversation about failure and set up peer groups to normalize the experience.



Listen in to hear their discussion.


Also check out the podcast series by Gita Pensa MDDoctors and Litigation: The L Word


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