Shame and guilt are common emotions faced by health care providers when dealing with a malpractice lawsuit. These struggles intensify when physicians hear phrases such as “don’t talk to anyone about this” from their lawyers, leading them to feel isolated, depressed, or anxious. Today’s guest discovered an unusual way of combatting some of these stressful emotions: reading.
In this episode of Prosperous Doc, our host Shane Tenny is joined by Dr. Stacia Dearmin, a pediatric physician who faced an unfortunate patient outcome. In 2012, Dr. Dearmin checked on a young woman in the emergency department and, after her examination, concluded the best course of action was to send her home to finish recovering. The next day Dr. Dearmin found out the young woman had been admitted to the ICU.
The young woman had suffered a cardiac arrest and stopped breathing; Dr. Dearmin knew the potential outcomes for this patient were grim. She was devastated, “I began to question what, if any responsibility I had for her death. I began to question my competence as a physician. I felt ashamed, I felt guilty, I grieved her death, I grieved my own sense of myself as a competent physician, and really struggled with these difficult feelings for much longer than I think I might have anticipated. I really didn't know how to understand the experience I was going through.” (5:32)
A year later, Dr. Dearmin herself, was facing medical malpractice litigation. While the verdict was unanimously in her favor, prevailing in the lawsuit did little to ease the stress of the ordeal. “I felt critical of myself that I wasn't shaking it off, and that caused me to question even further, ‘do I belong in this profession?’ I see now that all that emotion is actually very closely tied to how seriously we take our work.” (10:39)
During her struggle, Dr. Dearmin found comfort in the essay To Err is Human, by Dr. Albert Wu. Dr. Wu “identifies the victim as a physician or other healer who has injured themselves when something bad happens or nearly happens to a patient and that physician has made or fears that they've made a mistake.” This essay was powerful for Dr. Dearmin because it described the emotional experience she was having. She discovered she was not alone. “Oh, that's me. I'm not weak. I'm not badly suited to medicine. I'm reflective, and we don't want the reflective people to all abandon medicine." (11:19)
The works of authors Brené Brown and Sidney Dekker also provided Dr. Dearmin a sense of peace. In their books she found words that allowed her to name her experience. “[I]t is powerful to have a vocabulary for these experiences because if I'm able to name my experience, just like Dr. Wu was able to name my experience, you realize, ‘oh, I'm not so alone in this. This is actually commonplace.” (17:02)
This episode’s Financial Wellness Tip focuses on physicians’ and dentists’ desire to purchase homes after finishing school. Will Koster, CFP®, recommends three often under-discussed factors when buying a house, before making a hasty purchase:
For more information on Dr. Stacia Dearmin or to view her resources and support for physicians facing malpractice litigation, visit thrivephysician.com
If you enjoyed this episode of Prosperous Doc, you might also like Finding Freedom and Balance as a Locum Tenens Doc, with Dr. Nii Darko
Prosperous Doc podcast by Spaugh Dameron Tenny highlights real-life stories from doctors and dentist to encourage and inspire listeners through discussions of professional successes and failures in addition to personal stories and financial wellness advice. Spaugh Dameron Tenny is a comprehensive financial planning firm serving doctors and dentist in Charlotte, NC. To find out more about Spaugh Dameron Tenny, visit our website at www.sdtplanning.com. You can also connect with our host, Shane Tenny, CFP firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter.