A Mindful Doctor – Mistakes


No one intends to make mistakes or to deal with things badly. When we do, it can leave us with feelings of guilt and disappointment with ourselves.

It is part of life that ‘we all make mistakes’. What distinguishes between us is how we respond to those mistakes. Our response can be to lay the blame somewhere else, on another individual, on ‘the system’, or on ourselves. We can adopt a more positive attitude by viewing mistakes as an opportunity to learn from and do better next time.

Take some time to reflect on the situation and the part you played. It is important to acknowledge any thoughts and feelings of guilt, shame and anger. Once acknowledged it enables us to express genuine remorse. We can then consider what we have learnt from the situation and how we could do things differently. And finally spend some time reminding ourselves of our own special positive qualities that we bring to our work and life.

In my own work place, the practice manager and I investigated mistakes made by the staff. The usual procedure was to hold an interview with the person seen as responsible for the error and see if any changes needed to made. We realised that this went some way to patching up the systems used, but resulted in the person involved feeling bad.

So we changed our approach by asking those involved in the incident to describe what had gone well and what are their strengths in the work they do. Then to outline the incident and invite them to describe how they may do things differently next time. This new approach was really helpful in finding creative solutions to challenges, while maintaining good staff morale.

Most people are motivated by the desire to care and, taking time to reflect on what occurred helps us do things better next time. So in summary: to deal with mistakes, acknowledge the mistake and apologise if appropriate; appreciate what went well; ask yourself what you learnt and how in the future you will do things differently.

Dr Craig Brown

To follow Craig’s daily mindfulness suggestions @amindfuldoctor  please click here.

Craig’s free meditation podcasts can be accessed by clicking here. Do listen to podcast 19 for a guided meditation on forgiveness

Read other blog posts

Login to view your membership area