I am perfect. I never make mistakes and always say the right thing. I was born this way. NOT!

In my early years as a Consultant Breast Surgeon, I learn every day. It’s why I get out of bed in the morning. My desire to know more, do more, be more. So far this year I have learned an important lesson. That when you care about your job, it’s not so much the patients life in your hands, but yours in their hands. Let me elaborate.

I try to do my best to communicate with my patients. From my last blog discussing my understanding of ‘limbo-land’ in waiting for test results, if possible and appropriate , I try to let patients know theirs as soon as I can. In doing so for a fellow healthcare professional, I opened the door to Expectation. My old friend who I try to keep under control. Who’s always followed me when I was taking exams as a child, to getting onto the netball team to getting married to becoming a consultant.

Don’t get me wrong. Expectation is not a foe. But when a patient is vulnerable at the time of diagnosis and the anticipation of your phone call paralyses them for the day, then it can be. Communication can break down and you lose the precious rapport and trust that forms so quickly and uniquely in a Doctor-Patient relationship. I knew she felt alone and I knew she felt I contributed to that by not calling and writing to her instead. My clinical letter appeared to her as defensive medicine. In my eyes it was a clinical record of our discussions. I had opened a can of worms, one I often open but quickly seal back up but this time a few wriggled away and burrowed deep in my mind.

I found it difficult to sleep and found myself talking about how I felt I failed my patient. I was reassured I had gone over and above what most doctors would do, but I needed closure. So we met and openly discussed it all. I told her I’d do things differently if I had the chance again and she said the same. She pulled out a bottle of champagne to say thanks and believe me, she made my day!

I always thought it was important to exude confidence and to not show weakness. It gets you absolutely nowhere. To talk of others mistakes is one thing, but to openly talk about your own and how you learned from them, humanises you and exalts you to a higher state of practice. You have learned. You have grown.

So now I am perfect, never make mistakes and always say the right thing. Until next time.

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