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Anatomy of a Mistake

April 15, 2014

So, I failed my final exams.

Specifically, just my Medical PACES. Yesterday, I had the academic feedback meeting I mentioned before. A very kind, very Scottish tutor went through the marksheets for the different stations and carefully dissected the pathology in my performance.

Cardio and Resp were solid passes; I was confident of that much. Abdo was a great pass, which was a bit of a surprise. The diagnosis was massive kidneys but I said hepatosplenomegaly. When you give the wrong diagnosis, you dig yourself a hole but when you give hepatosplenomegaly as that diagnosis, you did yourself a bottomless pit – And yet, excellent pass. That examiner did say my shirt needed an iron, which I took affront at. Neuro was a bit of a wobble, but I only narrowly failed it. Shorts was an unmitigated disaster. I thought that might be the problem. Examiner reported that I looked “stumped” and “lost.” Said I never gave a right answer, which I would disagree with to some extent. Then narrowly failed the history in the History-taking station. That was a real surprise. I took a detailed collapse history, so detailed that I ran out of time for drugs, allergies and social history but still, I had the picture of the patient. Recurring across all stations was that I appeared hesitant and nervous, nothing new there but it counted against me. If I hadn’t bombed Shorts so badly, or had taken an excellent history, I might just have slipped through. Still, now isn’t the time to deal in counterfactuals.

The tutor informed me again of the remedial firm in May, and an intensive PACES course too. Considering my options, I think I’ll take-up the latter. The feedback meeting was enlightening. Shorts was a disaster, I knew, but, playing back that day in my head, I was certain Neuro and Abdo would be fellow architects in my downfall. What I took away from that meeting was that there is nothing in my knowledge or skill set that can’t be fixed, won’t be fixed. I can pass the resit in June, and I can pass it well. In fact, the tutor’s parting remarks was that I will emerge from this trial a better doctor.

There’s just one thing tempering such optimism. It’s a little demon, small in stature, that’s telling me since I failed these PACES once, I can fail them again. And that gets me thinking about the consequences of that scenario, putting a crimp in all major life plans. I try and shake it off. That little demon is not helpful at this time or any time.

Well…we’ll see how we go.

4 Comments leave one →
  1. April 16, 2014 1:53 am

    Don’t ever ever ever give up! From one medical student to another, you can find the strength in you and pass your exams! Good luck! I’ll be rooting for you!


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