September 26, 2006

Being judgemental

Posted in Randumb at 1:58 pm by Iram

I have made a very important realization about myself – one that I think every student physician has to make at some point or another if they want to be able to provide unparalleled patient care to those that trust in them. As a human, it is very hard to not be judgemental. We judge people by the things that they say, clothes that they wear, people with whom they hang out, and their personal preferences in general. While I have always made a conscientious effort to not judge people before I really get to know them, I have recently found myself falling into this trap. Just yesterday I learned the truth about one individual whom I had previously judged without knowing the full story, and now I am feeling the guilt of having drawn such a conclusion about somebody based only on my own assumptions regarding the cause of their current predicament. This is not behavior becoming of a future physician, because any time you are judgemental with a patient you significantly reduce the objectiveness of your analysis of your patient’s condition, and at the same time if your judgement manages to show through your demeanor, you significantly reduce the information you will get from your patient and thus hinder your ability to help them. Fortunately, I am still in school and am in a position to learn from my mistakes without having to be concerned about potentially serious complications and consequences, but I (and all other student doctors) need to remember that objectiveness is very important to healthy human relationships.

1 Comment »

  1. ASEAN Ape said,

    Have you read “Blink” by Malcolm Gladwell? (Maybe after your exams!) In this book he talks about the snap judgements that people make, and how on one hand, they help save lives (think of a policeman’s reflexes upon facing a serial killer), while on another they don’t (he used the example of the guy who was wrongly killed in NYC; and another example that he talked about was a car salesman who is good at sales because he manages to overlook his initial prejudices). I think the book addresses some parts of your self-realization.

    You are being a little harsh on yourself (and that’s a compliment), and asking a little too much by demanding complete objectivity from yourself. If anything, by demanding complete objectivity of yourself, you run the huge risk of falling into the same trap set by your judgement: since you ARE objective (or you think you are), then logically in your mind your view cannot be wrong as it is the universal truth…. By believing yourself to be objective, you won’t even realize if and when your opinions are actually subjective, and run the risk of not recognizing contrasting voices, and of not being able to see an alternative perspective.

    The fact is, unless we are capable of holding multiple perspectives in our heads at a single instant of time (like a Cubist picture), what we see and judge is going to be just one perspective out of a lot of perspectives.

    Sometimes all the perspectives mesh (an ant is an ant, afterall); sometimes they don’t (like perspectives about the economy, or a medical diagnosis).

    It might be more pragmatic to just realize that no matter what, your perspective is going to be subjective, and you’re going to judge. The important thing is not to NOT judge, but to realize that you might have to change your judgement. That might actually make you a more flexible and better practitioner of medicine, than to aspire to be a medical robot who feels cold to the touch.

    Also, not all judgement is bad; in a medical emergency, a wrong but quick diagnosis is sometimes better than watching the chap die while you consider all possible options. That’s what happens when doctors triage.

    I think it’s wonderful that you’re actually self-aware that your judgement sometimes hinders you from seeing certain truths: if only all doctors are as wise!

    And if only they wash their hands more often in the hospitals…


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