Handling Mistakes in Your (Pre-) Medical Education

Pre-medical students hold themselves to very high standards.  This is not a bad thing – they have chosen a career that requires dedication to excellence and carries significant responsibilities.  While not universally true, many are very hard on themselves when they fall short, whether it’s an unanticipated low grade, turning up late for an appointment, or a simple miscommunication.  In Academic Medicine’s blog, AM Rounds, Dr.  Will Bynum, MD, relates a mistake he made as a resident, an unintended laceration, in “To Pull Back the Curtain on Shame in Medical Education, I Had to Start with Myself.” He also shares a link to a study of shame experiences in medical residents noting possible “factors that may contribute to shame—factors that could be that could be addressed to mitigate its destructive potential—including perfectionism, comparisons to others, fear of judgment, and self-evaluating through a ‘skewed frame of reference.’”

Consider shame-triggering events in your pre-medical education.  Nobody is perfect, and learning to face and work through mistakes and weaknesses in a healthy way is great preparation for your continued education.  Rather than seeing aspects of your application as a “black” or “red” flag to admissions committees, consider how you think of these things.  There is real value in being able to talk about them in a way that shows you are ready to work through the inevitable disappointments and difficulties of your professional life, without cringing and being fearful that someone will see them.  At Graduate & Professional School Advising we are happy to sit with you and talk about aspects of your application or preparation that may be concerning you.   

Author: Carol Hagan

Carol Hagan is a pre-health and pre-grad advisor in Career Services. She has a Ph.D. in art history from Penn and did her undergraduate work at Wesleyan University.