One thing I have never quite gotten used to is being “on-call.” Invariably, I cannot sleep through the night for fear of missing a phone call from the emergency department asking for help in interpreting abdominal radiographs on a vomiting cat or dog. As a first-year resident, I was petrified at the thought of coming in after-hours to run a cross-sectional study and have to interpret on the spot. Even now, after I have seen many more studies and have had more time to perfect my interpretive skills, I still worry about making mistakes and missing lesions, resulting in poor patient outcomes and letting down my peers.
I, like many of my peers, am a perfectionist and when I make a mistake, it hits me hard. My senior faculty members are tough on us residents, and they always push us to be the best radiologists we can be. I respect their input and feedback more than anything in this residency. However, when I make a mistake (which does happen from time to time, it turns out!) I never feel like I have let them down. I, as “they” say, am my own biggest critic.
In the beginning of my residency, when a mistake that I made led to a poor patient outcome, I questioned my ability to be a good radiologist. I wondered how I could possibly have been selected to join this residency out of a pool of more than 100 applicants. I resigned myself to pushing harder and studying more when I got back home after a long day of work, and while there was nothing that I could do to take back that mistake or change how it affected that particular patient, I learned.
The reality is that we are humans at the end of the day. Mistakes will be made, and we need to be able to forgive ourselves when we know we have worked our hardest to ensure the risk of making such a mistake is minimized. I know that throughout my career there will be many more mistakes to be made, and my ability to recover from these mistakes will be a little bit better each time.