Post by Patricia Capone, DO PGY-1

Have you ever felt like there is a little Disney character on your shoulder, with its chest puffed out, that grows and shrinks with the size of your Ego? What is Ego? We all have one. How do we functionally utilize our Ego, so that we can be high performers without being detracters? Andy, Drew, Tanner, and John got a chance to dive into this topic during one of their  sessions at ACOEP 2022.


What is Ego?

  • Your evaluation of your self-worth/importance
  • Freud’s definition of Ego:
    • The moderator between the Id (instinctive and primitive ideas we are born with) and the Superego (learned behaviors of right and wrong).
      • Superego can vary from person to person because it is based on lived experiences, whereas the Id is fairly similar across the board.

Is there a difference between Confidence and Ego?

  • Confidence:
    • To be a high performer in any field, including medicine, you must have confidence in your abilities.
      • Particularly in EM, we would be paralyzed in certain situations without confidence in what we can and cannot do, however, we have to be careful to be competently confident.
        • It is important to also be confident in your limitations and know when it’s time to get consultants or other EM providers involved.
      • Ego:
        • Moreso the intersection of confidence in oneself and someone else’s confidence in your abilities.

Is Ego ever necessary?

  • Your ego can be crucial, particularly for introverted people
    • You need to have a little Ego to know when you have to take action.
  • Ego can give you the push you need and remind you that:
    • “You’re good enough! You’re smart enough! And gosh darn it, people like you!”
  • Some people have a hard time firing it up at the right time and some people have the opposite problem -it fires up too quickly.

Can Ego be a bad thing?

  • Your ego can get out of control when it causes you to make assumptions about a situation to make up for your lack of knowledge about that situation.
    • Ex: The patient tells you part of the story and without asking the appropriate clarifying questions, you start to fill in the details.
  • Ego can get us in trouble because as we create narratives without all of the facts, we can lead ourselves to the wrong diagnoses.

How do we keep our Ego in check?

  • Recognize it:
    • In yourself:
      • Learn how to identify when your ego is raised above its normal level or not raised high enough.
      • If tensions seem high, check yourself first
        • Ask yourself:
          • Am I looking for attention?
          • Am I comparing myself to others?
          • Am I comparing this patient to others that I have seen for similar reasons?
          • Am I looking down on someone for not trying as hard as me?
          • Am I writing my own narrative?
        • In others:
          • Learn how to identify it in your colleagues and recognize any defenses that your team may be putting up in response to your Ego.
          • Learn your team!
            • Know their tells and triggers.
          • Restore balance when your ego gets out of whack
            • Be sure to approach the issue with grace for both yourself and your team.
            • Ask clarifying questions to avoid writing a narrative when you don’t have all of the facts
            • Train your brain to turn off the part that makes a story about why the patient came to the ED and whether or not you feel like it was a good utilization of the department’s resources. #It’sAboutThePatient

Listen to the Episode


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