Thank you for taking me seriously. This does not happen to me often. Thank you for recognizing that I have a future as a physician and need your feedback to grow. Thank you for seeing me as your responsibility. Thank you for loving me enough not to just shrug this off and write “terrible.” It is important for me to receive feedback that is not always good so that I know what areas I need to work on actively. I don’t always know what I don’t know and I can’t always tell when something is going wrong. I needed you to let me know, and you didn’t fail me.
Thank you for being kind and constructive. In the past, many attending physicians and residents have berated me and made me feel like a failure. Thank you for not making me cry or making me feel like I am morally bankrupt for not being omniscient. I am a young student. I am trying my best. When we identified a gap in my knowledge together, you talked to me like I was a human who has thoughts, feelings, and aims to be good at what we do. Thank you for talking to me with your inside voice and taking me aside privately. Thank you for not embarrassing me, but instead thinking about how the privacy of this conversation could help me. Thank you for recognizing the power of your words and choosing the right ones.
Thank you for giving specific feedback. We were able to break down every step that went well, where things went wrong, and how we could move forward together. Thank you for telling me exactly what I could do to move forward and discussing how my future might look. Every time we do something in medical school, it feels like we are going to die right after it happens. It feels like this is our only time to ever do anything, and that it will be the end of the world if we fail.
Thank you for separating this deficiency from my identity as a human being. I have worked my whole life to get to where I am today, and so it often feels like my identity is on trial when I am being critiqued. We sacrificed so much to be here. Thank you for not making statements or judgments about what I may have believed or who I am. Thank you for staying on message and isolating your feedback to my actions alone.
Thank you for modeling good behavior. Teaching is challenging, and in medicine, we don’t always get specific training on how to be a good teacher. I needed you to show me how to be a good teacher and how to treat students I teach in the future as well. I will not forget that you were direct, and neither cruel nor heavy-handed in your feedback.
Thank you for giving me a chance to apply your feedback under your supervision. So often I receive negative feedback at the end of a rotation or the end of my time working with someone. They see me at my weakest point and judge me for it, never giving me the opportunity to show what I have learned or demonstrate my capacity to get better. Thank you for investing more of yourself in me than just rage or disappointment. Thank you for giving me a second chance and evaluating me again.
Share a memorable experience you had as a physician mentor or mentee in the comment section.
Micaela Stevenson is a fourth year medical student at the University of Michigan. She is planning to go into obstetrics and gynecology with a subspecialty in reproductive endocrinology and infertility. You can find her on instagram @babydocatyourcervix
Illustration by Jennifer Bogartz