You cannot be afraid to be wrong. In fact, very often as a veterinarian you will be wrong.
Recently, in a lecture about medical errors given by one of the most engaging doctors in one of my favorite classes of large animal block, I had this realization again. In the midst of a discussion about what one should do if a medical error should occur, I realized there was going to come a day that I was actually going to be the person to commit a medical error.
That thought scared me. Of course, I do not think most veterinarians go into the profession thinking about all of the mistakes they plan to make throughout their career. In fact, I would argue that most veterinarians are revered for the “good” choices they make in times of crisis. However, there is still the harsh reality that at some point, a mistake will be made and I will have to deal with the consequences.
The title of the aforementioned lecture was “Primum Non Nocere” which is Latin for “first, do no harm.” I suppose the lecturer was alluding to the fact that as a veterinarian, your first and foremost obligation is to your patient. Whatever decision you make, it is important that patients are not harmed as a result of your treatment. This seems obvious, but having it as the title of the lecture really stuck with me.
As a veterinarian, our ultimate goal is to care for those that do not have a voice. I think subconsciously, that is what drew me to the profession in the first place. Now, almost in the position when I will be asked to make decisions about the care and treatment of those animals, I find myself over-thinking and worrying about my own competency. I know that at the end of my fourth year I will feel more confident, but right now I’m a little concerned about the “do no harm” part!