“No teacher has ever told me what they really thought of me.”
That’s what I was thinking as I read the evaluations that were written about me during my pediatrics rotation.
The judgment of my previous successes and failures in my pre-medical career had always been masked by the convenient A’s and B’s of report cards and progress reports. There was no context, sub context, or innuendo. Just letters.
Well, except for “works well with others” and “penmanship needs work” in kindergarten.
But to have those letters A through F, or in this case numbers 9 through 1, accompanied by praise and criticism? It’s like if Bill O’Reilly and John Stewart were judges for Olympic figure skating. The FOX News host would castigate the skater for twizzling in his no spin zone, while John would do an impression of his grandmother to convey his extreme disappointment.
In total, I’ve personally received six evaluations from residents and faculty. They’ve ranged from glowing to incendiary, all containing the same underlying theme: “Stephen is hard-working and cares immensely for his patients, but has a lot to learn”
In short: you obviously care about this, but you’re not that good… Yet.
In reviewing these comments, it became apparent that the varying numerical responses to my performance were a matter of subjectivity and perspective. Suddenly, I found myself at the mercy of the Olympic panel in the category of “presenting the patient”. One judge holds up a teeth-gnashing “3” for my inability to gracefully present a patient, while another counters with a “9” for my ability to smile while humiliating myself.
So which number should I be more excited about? Most would probably say the 9, as it validates our presence in this career path. “You are great, Stephen. Keep it up”. But not me. I’ll take the “3” and the gnashing of teeth any day.
Because, like I said, no one has ever told me what they really think about me in a professional setting. Tell me that my shaking voice betrays just how nervous I am during morning rounds, or that I have an elementary understanding of the pathophysiology of RSV bronchiolitis.
That way, when I’m treating a kid with that condition ten years from now, my caring disposition will be backed by a wealth of medical knowledge and experience.
In that moment, the scorecards and comments will all take a backseat to the care of my patient – even Olympic judges can agree on that.