We don’t talk about grades. At an Ivy League medical school. We ho and hum about how we do. It’s interesting. We spend the first two years on a pass/fail grading basis. And so when we get to our clinical years, and we start to get graded, we become anxious. We’re starting to be compared against our peers. And then we find out grades a few months later. But we don’t talk about them.
So what happens when you get a PASS or an average grade in a clerkship? We’re used to doing well or at least above average. We find ourselves in silos. We stay silent. It’s as if we wear a scarlet letter of an average grade.
I bring this up because I recently received a PASS grade on a clerkship. But I find myself unable to share this with my peers. So what happens when we stay silent when we don’t do well? How can we improve if we don’t share our faults?
In medicine, it’s easy to make excuses and not blame ourselves. We’re taught to blame the circumstances, to find fault elsewhere. Surely it can’t be us. But sometimes it is. And we need to be okay talking about our mistakes. Because if we don’t, then we propagate a culture where perfection is the norm and whenever you don’t achieve it, you are a pariah.
I’m hoping that in the future, we as students expose our weaknesses, not as vulnerabilities, but as examples that it is okay to be average or to make mistakes. Doctors make mistakes; can we talk about that?