Along those lines, Dr. Plews-Ogan added that acknowledging our human fallibility also helps us to design systems that can protect us from our own, often predictable, imperfections. The bottom line, even though it may sound contradictory, is to view an error in a beneficial way. “Turn it into a positive,” Dr. Stankiewicz said.
Where We’ve Been
Not too long ago, the medical community was mostly closed mouth when something went wrong. “I don’t think people actively covered things up, but they were very loath to talk about them,” said Mark Wax, MD, professor of otolaryngology-head and neck surgery at Oregon Health and Science University School of Medicine in Portland. “Nowadays, it’s become more commonplace to have open discussions about errors. In our department, we discuss all errors and complications. If you admit a mistake and then try to rectify it, it is much better for patient care.”
Looking back, Dr. Plews-Ogan also recalls working in an environment where nobody talked about making mistakes. “We wrongly assumed that perfection was the norm,” she said. “But this is a dangerous and obviously flawed assumption. Instead, we can role model our own awareness of fallibility, be open about acknowledging our mistakes with patients, and be eager to discuss our mistakes with a keen desire to learn and create a safer system going forward.”