Challenging the ‘F’ word: redefining failure in medical careers
Successful failure. Carl Gray finds that careers must embrace the philosophy of success
Few doctors pass all their examinations first time, take their first choice of jobs at each stage, marry the perfect partner for them, and have 12 perfect children. None will continuously deliver high quality care to universally grateful patients before dying of joy after receiving the monarch's congratulations on his or her 100th birthday. Outside fantasy medicine, no doctor will ever achieve 100% success in any activity, and if they do their evidence base needs careful validating by kindly yet sceptical peers.
Into every life a little rain must fall, and for the opposite of success we think of failure. Unlike the dodo, which is extinct, pandas, which fail to perform in captivity, and tigers, which are threatened, humans are not a failing species. Human ingenuity generally adapts to difficulties of habitat and medical practice. Unlike Cummings' Uncle Sol, no one is born a failure and “Nobody loses all the