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Unfortunate Mistakes Make for a Miserable Week

Alitabatabaeyhat72x721_3Ali Tabatabaey -- Have you ever had one of those days when you just want to run home, slide under the blanket and force yourself to sleep, hoping that when you open your eyes again the calendar will have moved ahead one day? And then, when that happens, it still doesn’t comfort you, so you find all the calendars in the house, rip off the pages and burn them one by one. And still you can’t help pumping adrenaline, cortisol, and all the stress hormones twice as much as normal?

It all started after an enjoyable Friday (the weekend here in Iran). Then came a seemingly normal Saturday morning, but the moment I stepped out of the house I was surprised to find a much whiter world than the one had I closed my eyes on. What a way to find out it’s been snowing for the past 12 hours (i.e. heavy traffic on the 42 KM drive to the hospital)!

Obviously, I arrived late. Just as I was wiping the snow off my coat, I got the first good news of the day from the head intern: "Due to some inconveniencies, you must run the morning report today." Knowing there was no use arguing, I rushed to get together the needed information about the patients I’d managed two days before, whom I had tried my best to forget during the weekend.

Five minutes later, I stand in front of the big blue whiteboard, which has been neatly written on with a permanent blue marker (!). I try to explain to the attending gynecologist (who happens to be the head of the department and who is looking closely to weed out interns who do not deserve to pass the course in a week’s time) why I hadn’t prepared the board earlier.

Fifteen minutes later, as I try to recall the precious needles of information lost in the haystack of weekend fun, a familiar melody breaks the silence. The physician's frown aimed at my pocket says it all. I had been so rushed that I forgot to turn off my cell phone, an inexcusable crime in front of the department head. My pathetic attempts at turning off the phone felt like the Coyote trying to blow out the dynamite stick he was handed by the Roadrunner just before being locked up in the US Army arsenal!

In the next few minutes, I lived through the opening sequence of "Saving Private Ryan," but I didn’t manage to dodge all the bullets like Tom Hanks did. The onslaught lasted all day. The gynecologist locked on every possible target and fired mercilessly. Any attempt at explaining or apologizing was brutally punished.

The cursed morning continued into an afternoon full of bad news (including the phone call that started it all) and spilled over into the rest of the week. This week, I’ve made the most trivial yet costly mistakes. In less than a week, I managed to descend from a beloved active intern into an irresponsible, rude, and lazy one in the eyes of the department head, and the harder I try to fix things the worse they get. I can’t wait for this week to be over.

December 11, 2006 | Permalink


Thanks for so candidly sharing your mishaps and misery. Many colleagues try to assert an image of success without flaw, and it can feel very isolating when you're having a tough time. The reality is, we all make mistakes. If we knew it all, there would be no need for this training process that we're going through! May it comfort you to know that you are definitely not alone!

Posted by: K | Dec 13, 2006 5:47:09 PM

3li i'm sure they know you, and hopefully they won't remmember these moments (the bad ones). we all share these mistakes, every now and then.
just keep the hard work, in god welling the curse will fate away.

Posted by: mona | Dec 14, 2006 2:02:30 AM

Aww...hang in there dude. Doctors who are not medical students see us with huge flashing signs saying 'SCAPEGOAT' above our heads. A few knocks are only to be expected. Things'll get better, they always do.

We all have bad days where everyone from the department head to the ward nurses seem to have personal grudges against you. Trust me, they don't (unless you have really bad breath, in which case there's always chewing gum).

Posted by: The Angry Medic | Dec 17, 2006 7:28:55 AM

...a bad day it is obvious, but do not lose your kool over it. Your nervousnes made you a target of their scrutiny. Consider the experience part of your training...believe or not you'll be in situations that whether you made a mistake or not the defining point of the situation would be the way behave under fire. I hope this experience makes you a kinder person when you are in the position to judge others as far as their professional skills is concerned. What have you learned from this experience? Please, reflect on the lesson, forget rest and move ahead, keep pushing yourself to be the best you can be. Felicita

Posted by: Felicita | Dec 20, 2006 7:04:04 AM

I admired Felicita's response enormously, especially where she suggests that future compassion for others' foolish mistakes may be very valuably learned IF we reflect on our own weaknesses and errors, accepting them for what they are, and our own selves for what we are. Too often, failing to accept our own fallibility causes us to become more and more intolerant of others, scapegaoting and punishing THEM for our own ill-perceived, poorly understood inadequacies. This all brings to mind so many old mottoes, not least Socrates: "He who knows what is right...will DO what is right," Jesus: "Father forgive them, for they know not what they do," Emperor Wilhelm ?II, "That which does not break is makes us strong," the only real mistake is the one from which we do not learn anything and my favourite, "Via veritatis, via caritatis."

Besides, Ali, as you also know, swimming through the shit helps one strive harder for that clear, blue water and any hardship can make us into bitter or into better people: it is our choice.

Everything is forgivable, but to humiliate anybody in public is something which no educated person ought ever to contemplate: pity anyone who does so, and try to forgive them.

We all owe you for having had the courage to share that lot, Ali!

Tom Kelly.

Posted by: tom kelly | Dec 20, 2006 2:04:23 PM

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