RP401 – Mistakes

Session Readings



We have often heard the phrase “everyone makes mistakes.” While this is readily accepted as fact in many fields of work, it is much less readily accepted by healthcare professionals, perhaps due to the fact that mistakes in healthcare can have profound consequences. Coping with our mistakes, especially when those mistakes result in poor outcomes can be challenging, yet it is important to recognize that our reactions to mistakes can be quite powerful. Feelings of guilt and shame often pervade the experience, influencing us in myriad ways that can all have an impact on the way we treat our patients.


This session is designed to help you:

  • reflect on mistakes you have made during their medical careers
  • identify your reactions to those mistakes and the sources of those reactions
  • explore how those reactions impacted the care you delivered
  • analyze strategies for coping with mistakes in the future.


Prior to the small group, reflect on a situation in which you made a medical mistake.  Come to the small group with notes that will help you to:

  • set the stage for the encounter
  • identify how you reacted to the mistake you made, how you perceived others to react, and what you did in response to the mistake and your reactions to the mistake
  • explore whether your experienced feelings of guilt or shame and if so, how you coped with them
  • how the mistake impacted you on a personal level, and also how it impacted the care you delivered in the weeks that followed.

Review one or more of the resources below prior to the small group discussion and come prepared to discuss your reactions to them.


TEDxTransparency, Compassion, and Truth in Medical Errors Leilani Schweitzer's son died by fault of medical error - she talks of the importance of transparency, truth, and compassion in medicine.
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downloadHow We See Ourselves, How We See Others by Emily Pronin Does our ability to know our own volition give us accurate insight into the volition of others? This article argues that the answer is a definitive "No".
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TEDxBrian Goldman: Doctors make mistakes. Can we talk about that? What’s an acceptable “batting average” for a physician? Brian Goldman examines the paradox of perfection in medicine, starting with three little words all physicians dread.
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New York TimesThe Many Errors in Thinking About Mistakes by Alina Tugend Children learn that ‘everyone makes mistakes’ as a crucial part of the learning process, but are rewarded for getting the right answer. A NY Times columnist explores society’s paradoxical approach to making mistakes.
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Session originally created by: Adam Saperstein | | |