The ‘little’ tragic mistakes

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As doctors – someone who goes through long, gruelling hours of learning the secrets of the human body – we often tend to underestimate the importance of paying attention to the small details when we are dealing with the gross realities of what is presented to us as pathologies.

One small mistake, one act of negligence that is the sad result of a tired body working for hours at a stretch, one incident of forgetfulness; and you, dear Doc, could have put someone’s life at stake.

An X-ray of a female documented as ‘Mr Sarfaraz’ instead of ‘Mrs Sarfaraz’ could lead to an embarrassing situation for both the patient and the doctor.
A female patient whose OBS/GYNAE history is left undocumented after a huge ‘MALE’ is scribbled across the relevant section, in the ER of one of Karachi’s well-reputed hospitals, could result in a near-fatal treatment or management plan because of missing out on important medical information.
Forgetting to check the blood pressure of a known case of a hypertensive patient while taking their history in an OPD, is sheer irresponsibility.
Writing down the wrong file number on a sample of fluid collected from a bronchoscopy, perhaps, could lead to some disastrous misdiagnosis.

It’s these little details – the seemingly easy tasks that require less of an effort than retaining important drug side effects and pharmacology – that could rob someone of their smile. And it is these little details that we so unjustly underestimate.

Having heard of so many tragic ‘mistakes’, I am still naively surprised at how our doctors and future doctors haven’t yet realised that in a profession such as ours, acts of negligence like these incite the suicide of the very ideology that attires us in this white lab coat. But here’s some food for thought for our education policymakers: starting a clinical skills class early on in the five-year-degree could hone our future physicians’ skills so perfectly, that double checking facts and following basic health protocols would become an innate feature of their personalities by the time they are ready to take the Hippocratic Oath. After all, old habits die hard, don’t they?