Holes in Our Armor
At the risk of sounding arrogant (my close friends are
shaking their heads and thinking, "That ship has sailed, Harrison...") I must
confess something: I haven't made a lot of critical mistakes in life.
I'm not saying I am perfect. I am light years away from
that. But if you had to write the tagline for the story of my career thus far,
it wouldn't work as a long-shot-comeback or a gritty tale of redemption. For
whatever reason, I have avoided the minefield of pitfalls that often delay,
sidetrack or otherwise curtail professional progress.
Unfortunately, that also endowed me with a massive flaw. When
it comes to the development of certain skills, I have to admit I am late to the
party (and not in any fashionable way). You
see, I am still learning how to deal with setbacks. I am figuring out how to
step back from a situation, examine why it doesn't work and attack the problem
in a different way.
Through much of life we can rely on our strengths to compensate
for our weaknesses without ever really addressing them. But medicine has a way
of exposing those flaws anyway. The difference between success and failure is
not a matter of how many flaws we have, but what we do about them.
The last 6 months as a PA-C have shone a spotlight on every
hole in my professional armor. And sometimes I feel less like a clinician and
more like a slice of Swiss cheese. For someone who has cruised past a lot of
speed bumps in life, that is pretty terrifying. A part of me wanted to run and
hide from the adversity that a new PA faces every day.
But none of us chose this career because it sounded easy.
And every screw-up sears a vital lesson into my brain. The hard-knock education
that life delivers is the difference between knowledge and wisdom. One you can
acquire with training; the other just happens over time.
I'm lucky enough to be surrounded by people who care enough
to give me direct feedback. Their only agenda is molding a good clinician. If
you find those people throughout your career, keep them close. Often, your
flaws-those holes in your armor-are better seen from a distance.
It's tempting to look upon your own shortcomings with a
sense of disgust. Some people carry their mistakes as a lifelong burden, as
evidence that they aren't good enough for their relationships or their job.
They see the holes in their armor only as an imperfection and not an
But you know what else is full of holes? A sponge. And one thing
a new PA can do is use those flaws to soak up every bit of knowledge and wisdom
that comes his or her way. Because the only thing worse than making an error is
missing the lesson that it offers.