Mistakes are inevitable in our lives. We make them at home with family, we make them in some of our own decisions, we make them at work, and we make them at school. As a veterinary student at Cornell, my classmates and I are very familiar with making mistakes at school. Just this week, we had a quiz that seemed quite easy but ended up tricking a bunch of us into choosing incorrect answers. Thinking back on last year, I can remember the frustration and uncomfortable giggles that permeated the room when my anatomy professor told us that, “Exams are learning experiences.” Many of us were used to exams being a chance to show our academic prowess, but that is not the way things work at Cornell. My professor continued, telling us, “If you got everything right on a veterinary school exam, then there would be nothing more to learn.” We all accept that this is not the case in life, and certainly not in veterinary practice. There is always more to learn.
With all that we are learning, it can seem overwhelming when we make so many mistakes. Some of us may question our inherent abilities as certain mistakes are made, especially as we encounter more emotionally charged situations. The thoughts of doubt can weigh you down. I know, I have felt it. This is part of the development of a veterinarian. The learning curve will be steep, sometimes intimidatingly so. It is part of learning complex science and intricate medicine that is always changing and requires us to be fully committed to our studies.
If you sometimes feel the weight of your mistakes or what you perceive as inadequacy, know that you are not alone in your thoughts. Developing your self-confidence and confidence in your decision-making skills is something that is part of developing as a professional. Ask any veterinarian or physician, and you will learn that self-doubt and a steep learning curve during school and early years in practice are not rare. Personally, I have found that the mistakes I make now happen less frequently than in the past. I am also able to identify when I actually need to learn more vs. when a careless mistake was made. Luckily, the careless mistakes are being made less and less as time goes on. Regardless of how many times we mess up, the goal is to keep moving forward, minimize our mistakes, and continue our education. Mistakes will happen, and allowing them to weigh us down will not benefit us in the long run.