High Expectations & Professional Accountability

As a general rule, medical practitioners are high achievers, having at least elements of ‘type A personalities’ and obsessive traits – we are usually highly conscientious and have a deep sense of responsibility in all that we do.  We often have higher expectations of ourselves than others do of us.  This makes it all the more frustrating and disappointing when others (either inside or outside of the medical field) can’t seem to simply do what is expected of them – their job!  This was even something raised by fellow Tweep Ash Witt recently, regarding her frustration when patients expected highly of her, yet seemed unable to work on things in their own lives.


I have recently experienced this frustration multiple times in my dealings with labouring businesses as I am trying to set up my new home.  How many times am I expected to make phone calls or send emails, effectively chasing people down, simply for an update on progress?  Having to do this is not only infuriating; it also makes me feel like I am a bothersome client, which is not a pleasant place to be in. And what happens when things go wrong?  It often leaves me thinking I must have been unclear with my instructions, because being on the receiving end of an apology in these circumstances is like drawing blood from a stone.  Sadly, I know of several other people in my circle of friends who have also recently had similar issues to me.

Now if we think about this in the setting of the doctor-patient relationship, if a person’s doctor makes an error or ‘forgets’ to chase up a result or write a referral, it is most likely that this doctor would be in a lot of trouble not only with the patient, but also with their clinic and the medical board.  They would be held accountable for their tardiness or errors, and quite rightly too, because a lot is potentially at stake.

Yet who keeps others accountable in their work?  In our highly-regulated and law-bound field of medicine I think I can be forgiven for becoming frustrated when others do not do their job, or at least when they do not do what they say they are going to do, in a timely fashion.  It should not be such a surprise on the rare occasion when someone actually does their job properly!  That is the real sad point.


I would be interested to hear your thoughts on this professional accountability – please feel free to air your frustrations too (within reason)!


2 thoughts on “High Expectations & Professional Accountability

  1. I think PROFESSIONAL (sorry for caps, no bold etc.) accountability is the key here… our patients are not professionals, they’re individuals, living autonomous lives. I see my job as an educator (yep, all doctors are teachers) and expert advisor. If a patient doesn’t follow my recommendation, it’s either because I didn’t communicate the importance of it well enough, or I did, and they chose differently because their priorities are different to mine. My frustrations come when I feel like my patients are making uninformed decisions, not because out the decision itself…

    As for everyone else (i.e. other professionals), I’m sure that I’m not always blameless, but sometimes you just come across hopeless slackers! 😉

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