We are entering a profession where the decisions we make have a lot more riding on them. If we make mistakes, someone’s health (or God forbid, their life) is at risk. Yet we are forced to learn with the attitude of “fake it till you make it.” If you are unsure about something, you answer with confidence anyways. In the preclinical setting, this helps us learn. Making mistakes and learning from them helps us to never make that mistake again. But when does this get dangerous? In our clinical years of medical school, we are still students being taught by doctors. In residency we gradually get the freedom to make more medical decisions and that privilege increases as our training goes on. But I can imagine that even out of residency it is hard to admit when you are wrong, not only because your reputation and license is at stake, but because you are taught to be confident throughout all of your training. However, admitting a mistake rapidly and thoroughly is the only ethical choice to make.
We are human, not robot; and we are practicing medicine. I don’t have much advice or experience on this topic yet, but I think about it constantly. I see myself and my colleagues answering questions with the confidence of a lion about to slay his prey. At this point it is almost instinctual to answer confidently even when you are not. Then I think about how scary that mindset has the potential to be and it makes me uncomfortable. However, I trust the physicians that are teaching me and commit to always be aware of how consequential medical decision making is.