Why are you crying?

No seriously, why?

If you don’t know me very well, seeing that question may piss you off.

But trust me when I say that I ask this question with no malicious intent.

As a new professional (or student), whenever you’re given negative feedback or told that you’re lacking in a certain piece of knowledge, sometimes one gets defensive. Sometimes one will just cry in frustration.

So you have to ask yourself, why did you react that way?

As a mentor to a student or resident I take immense pride in making sure that after your time with me, you will have leveled up as a practicing clinician. The one key way of making this happen is making sure that you are made aware of what you don’t know and where you can improve in your clinical skills and decision making.

What would really happen if all I did was provide you positive praise and feedback ALL THE TIME?

You’ll go on practicing with a false sense of confidence and mastery of your craft. You won’t be aware of the pitfalls in your clinical reasoning or the gaps in your knowledge base.

(Not to mention that you’ll probably be incredibly cocky and super annoying.)

You see its in your mistakes where you truly grow. It’s the only way.

Let me get back to why someone would react defensively or just cry in frustration.

It’s simply ego.

I get it. You’re a driven person and throughout your life, academically you’ve worked to get everything right. Getting things “wrong” academically is significant in testing situations. You’ve worked your ass off to get most if not all things right to make it where you are today, as a licensed physical therapist.

And so because of this, whenever you get something wrong in clinic it hurts. But now is not the time to shy away from this challenege. Now is not the time double down on only what you know.

Now is the time get super comfortable with the unknown.

As a new professional, you just so new. You have lots of books smart to work in theory, but now is the time to practice. This is clinical practice – not clinical mastery.

So instead of getting defensive or sad or upset, now is the time to change that mindset with your learning. Now is the time to actively engage to uncover what you don’t know as a practicing clinician.

If you don’t know the best special test for one clinical presentation, now is the time to immediately look it up.

If you don’t know the best way to order your subjective examination, now is the time to set up time to practice with a colleague or practice by yourself at home.

If you don’t know what you don’t know…now is the time actively engage with a mentor that can be brutally honest with you and coach you through how your practice and why you practice.

Don’t let ego allow you to be in a false sense of clinical mastery. You need to earn it through your mistakes. So get to work. What’s stopping you?