This post was originally published on the MIMS Career Blog.
Aisyah (not her real name) was frustrated.
Last night’s shift made her feel like she never even went to nursing school.
She had a patient with ESRD who was about to go for dialysis at 0800. She was monitoring his blood pressure, and at 0445 it was at 166/89. When she came back at 0545, it was 168/98.
She started to get nervous. She wanted to call the M.O., but a note left by the nephrologist stated to only notify is systolic is over 200 and diastolic 100. 98 was pretty close to 100, so Aisyah started to panic.
It was then that Aisyah realized that the note actually said to call at diastolic > 115.
At 0725, the M.O. came over. Although he was nice about it, he told Aisyah that she should’ve called when diastolic was above 90.
If Aisyah could kick herself, she would. Even though that happened last night, she is still thinking about the mistake feels bad about it. She feels that she should’ve known better, should’ve talked to her coworkers about it, should’ve made a better decision about the note…
Does this sound familiar to you? Do you seem to finally be doing well at work, only to make a mistake that bogs you down and makes you miserable, long after it’s happened? Do you feel like you’re a bad doctor/nurse/pharmacist?
You have impostor syndrome.
It is the feeling of being a fraud, a fake, and people are going to find out. It’s fine for people who are undercover secret agents or quacks, but it’s a terrible feeling for people who are trying to make the world a little better.
“There are an awful lot of people out there who think I’m an expert. How do these people believe all this about me? I’m so much aware of all the things I don’t know.” – Dr. Chan, Chief of the World Health Organization
You’re actually doing a good job, but you don’t feel that way. Left unchecked, this will harm your mental health and affect your career.
1. Focus on providing value
What do people/the ward sister/the HOD think of me? They must think I’m an idiot!
We say this to ourselves time and time again.
The rule of thumb is that if you’re so concerned about what other people think, you’re not focusing on your work enough.
Focus on providing value. Show up, do your best work. Provide value to your patients, colleagues, departments.
2. Stop comparing yourself to others
Respect your own experiences. You went to nursing/med/grad school. You studied extremely hard for this. You sacrificed a ton of your time and energy. You suffered through grueling on-calls and surgeries.
You are the sum of your experiences. Please respect all the things you went through to make you who you are.
Don’t just be aware of other’s successes. They have their own shortcomings too, just like you. It’s just that you don’t see them.
3. Being wrong doesn’t mean you’re bad.
Being wrong does not mean you’re a bad nurse, bad doctor, bad pharmacist, physician; bad anything.
Everybody makes mistakes.The designers of the Titanic, supposedly the smartest engineers of their time, designed a now-obvious flaw into the doomed ship. The Terengganu stadium collapse in 2013 was also a mistake done by contractors, the state government, and inspectors. Thousands of mistakes are made in surgery every year.
It’s just how the world works. Don’t let your mistakes and failures define you, and carry on.
4. Nobody really knows what they’re doing
Really, no one does.
You only feel like you know nothing because you’re more aware of the things you don’t know.
If you already feel like a failure right now, it probably means you’re doing a good job because of the Dunning-Kruger effect. It’s a psychological phenomenon that describes low-ability people’s incompetence to realize their incompetence.
In other words, people who are bad at something don’t know they’re bad at it.
The fact that you’ve come to a self-actualization level sufficient to see your own shortcomings means that you’re learning and growing as a person.
Comfort zone is very nice, but nothing ever grows there.
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