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Providing Constructive Feedback In Medicine – Promoting An Uplifting And Harmonious Workplace

Oct 19, 2023

It has been more than ten years since I was in fellowship training, although, in some ways, it seems like it was just yesterday that I completed my training as a hematologist and oncologist. Throughout those years, there were regular feedbacks. Most of them were written comments or answered in a questionnaire. They were designed to improve the trainee’s skills and performance.

As an attending physician now, it is my turn to provide feedback to residents. Those are the more formal evaluation during their elective rotation. There are times when I give informal evaluation, or feedback after certain situations. My chance of delivering feedback is more when there is a new physician attending or a mid-level provider joining our practice.

There are things I keep in mind to provide constructive feedback to the other person. The goal is to make sure they are doing things correctly and as expected to the set standards. It is important to provide comments in order to lift that person up in their ability or potential.

It is helpful and almost essential to have a clear understanding of what the expectations are within their role. What are their responsibilities? What is the purpose of their position? If there is such a guide, then it is fairly straightforward to discuss when things are not going within that standard.

It is also important to nurture an environment for the person to feel free to ask questions and to seek help when needed. It is best to have a workplace that workers are not afraid to learn or make mistakes. If everyone understands that periodic constructive feedback is to elevate the work environment, then everyone will be more supportive. The person receiving the feedback will be less likely to be defensive as it is about the performance and not about the person.

Working as a team in medicine promotes better healthcare for patients with better communication and more positive emotions. It is the human relationship that people feel connected, among the team members of the care team, between the team and the patient.

To provide constructive feedback, keep in mind it is to build that person up, and not to demoralize that person. Give your evaluation with love and care.

Promote a learner’s mindset. Encourage a learning environment and to ask questions any time. Reinforce the fact that there is no “stupid” question.

Assume that person has good intentions. If something went wrong, do your best to be as objective as possible to find out the reason behind it. Ask open-ended question, such as “what happened?” or “could you describe in detail the situation?”

I cannot emphasize how important it is to focus on the performance and not on the person. It is not helpful to criticize the person’s personality or certain attributes. Instead, focus on the situation. Talk about what went well and what needs improvement.

We are always learning and growing. Focus on the future, not in the past. If an incident happened, do not dwell in the past, but use it as an example as how to improve things in the future.

Always offer to help. No one is perfect, but together, and focusing on teamwork and better quality of healthcare, this creates a welcoming and loving environment to work in.

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