Observing more senior physicians, students learn that their mentors and supervisors believe in, practice and reward the concealment of errors. They learn how to talk about unanticipated outcomes until a ‘mistake’ morphs into a ‘complication.’ Above all, they learn not to tell the patient anything.
We’ve all done it: hollered a confident “hi, Mark!” to a guy named Greg; slipped up and called our sixth grade teacher “Mom”; snuck up on our sister from behind and delivered a pinch, only to realize she was a stranger. These kinds of gaffes are simultaneously the most mundane and most embarrassing of mistakes. More people than I can count told me stories like these, all of which ended with the speaker expressing the fervent desire to vanish. As one such person put it, “The only thing you can say in these situations is, ‘Sorry, I just had a brain biopsy.’”