Improving medical students

Medical Errors

Posted by medliorator on June 4, 2007

Every attending has at least one or two areas where they have previously “gotten burned.” No matter how hard we try to be perfect, we will represent, and later resent, our humanity, our imperfection. We will do something that will greatly harm a patient. I’m sadly starting to learn something that may explain doctor behavior: trust nothing.


an intoxicated gentleman comes in, found down, complaining of generalized body weakness for which he has been seen on numerous occasions. Nurses know him by first name, and note that this is his typical course – he comes in, sobers up, leaves. Being astute medical student that I am, I want to rule out Other Badness. Sugar normal, exam normal. I draw labs. Just ’cause. Much later my attending decides we should also get an EKG. Just as it’s printing out and I’m noting the U waves and the long QT, the lab calls with his low potassium and calcium results. Ugh. Had I just decided to get the EKG to begin with, we could’ve caught this much quicker. But I decided, “No, he comes in like this all the time, the nurses see him like this all the time, he’s probably just drunk.” Now, nothing bad happened to the gentleman–we fixed him right up–but I can just barely see other versions of the story, and it’s scary.

Getting Burned [Over My Med Body]

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