Most of us has been “feedback smacked” at some point in our life. During a meeting, an innocent walk down the hallway, or a performance review, someone delivers us a verbal wallop that rocks our psychological footing to the core. If you have been haunted by a harsh comment you received maybe even a decade ago, and it still stings. Well you’re not alone.
When I first got into ultrasound I’ll admit, I felt on top of the world. I may have even felt above some others working in the hospital, like the ex-coworkers (whom I loved and respected while working with them in the lab by the way). But when I became somebody, and accomplished something big like a degree, I may have let it get to my head. Thank god someone saw this pompous behavior and knocked me back into humbleness.
Let me first say that this was well over a decade ago and I have grown as a person and as a professional since then. The sad thing was that I had no idea! But my coworkers saw me as having an attitude and carrying myself differently. To them it was as if I suddenly no longer needed any training, constructive criticism, or anything that would make me feel inferior or insecure about my work.
What was the first thing that changed my attitude you ask? I was just out of school and took the first shift offered to me, which of course was the “shit” Shift…11p-7a. A young girl came in with pelvic pain (what a surprise, right) well, as I scanned her and did a TV ultrasound, I did a thorough exam of the uterus, ovaries, adnexa’s. As I was doing the exam, I thought her “empty bladder” had maybe filled back up and thought nothing of it. I confidently sent the images down to the reading doctor to interpret for the ER doctor. However, before I knew it, the patient was back up to the department. The resident and reading doctor were in the room as well, and the morning sonographer was re-scanning the patient I had done the TV on.
I thought maybe they had her empty bladder her bladder so they could evaluate more, but I stood in the background nail biting hoping she didn’t find anything I missed. I watched as my coworker rescanned my patient while the doctors observed. They got onto the structure I called “the bladder” and yup, you guessed it, a Big ‘ole cyst hanging off the uterus was being discussed. It was then that the resident blurted out “who called that the bladder?” and everyone in the room snickered. In an instant my face turned red, and I could feel all the blood rushing through my body. I raised my hand and said “that would be me”.
I knew that my boss would find out, so I decided it would be best if she heard it directly from me. I waited around for her to get in rather than leave. It was that day that she took my admission of this mistake to unload! Not only did she give me an earful about my (admitted) mistake, but she also felt the need to add in disapproval about my attitude and inability to take constructive criticism.
I believe that we all crave approval and fear truth. Critical feedback can feel traumatic because it threatens two of the most fundamental psychology needs: Safety and worth (a sense of self respect, self-regard, or self-confidence). Had I not stayed and received the feedback, that I I probably deserved, there is no telling what could have happened or not happened in the future.
Taking responsibility for our own actions allows us also to take responsibility for our own self-worth and safety. Constructive criticism helps with this growth. Naturally it depends on how the criticism is delivered, especially if it’s by a manager who is a constant giver of criticism and not a good receiver of the same. However, if it is given, the fundamental belief is that relentless exposure to truth is the best path to growth and happiness.
I may have learned that the hard way, but you don’t have to. Still, however you decide to grow in this career path, I hope you remember that in any given situation whether it be with yourself, or when it comes to the safety of the patient, honesty is always the best policy. It’s OK to make mistakes, it’s part of the journey. It’s how you learn from those mistakes that will determine your success down the road.