Struggling with a Supervisor’s Critique
Tips for Dealing with a Harsh Critique:
The following tips can be useful if your self-esteem and self-confidence feel like they have taken a hit after receiving a clinic performance report. For example, if you feel bad about making a mistake or were impacted by the way a critique was delivered, the following may help:
Focus on the part that will make you a better doctor and learn from it.
Accept the things you can’t change, such as the supervisor you are assigned, their personality, or skill as a teacher.
View the big picture. This is a temporary assignment. This is just one experience of many as you grow as a clinician.
Remind yourself the difficult moment will pass.
Use distractions. If you find yourself ruminating about it, try talking with a friend about something completely different.
Focus on factors that you can control, such as your performance during the remainder of this rotation or in your next assignment.
Choose your battles. Was there something you feel was inaccurate in the critique? What do you gain or lose by arguing your case?
Turn to healthy coping strategies that have worked for you in the past.
Optimal Feedback on Clinical Performance
The following principles for faculty/supervisors providing effective and supportive feedback to medical students (Ende, 1983) may or may not come naturally to someone put into a supervisory role. Medical residents, in particular, who are put in charge of clerkship students, may not have been trained in these skills or may find them challenging to achieve while learning new clinical skills themselves and providing patient care. Review these principles so that you understand the ideal way to provide feedback. Consider that if a supervisor does not follow these principles, it may be that they lack skill and are not making a personal attack. You may find it helpful to focus instead on the useful part of the feedback and what you need to do to advance your skills as a physician.
Feedback to medical students should help students and faculty:
- Work as allies with common goals
And feedback should be
- Well-timed and expected
- Based on first-hand data
- Regulated in quantity
- Limited to behaviors that are remediable
- Descriptive and non-evaluative
- Based on specific examples, not generalizations
- About decisions and actions rather than assumed intentions or interpretations
Ende J. Feedback in Clinical Medical Education. JAMA. August 12, 1983;250(6):777-781. PMID: 6876333.
What Are Your Strengths and Positive Qualities?
Another way to handle a harsh critique is to focus on your strengths and positive qualities.
- Take 2 minutes to answer this question: What qualities do you have that will make you a good doctor and succeed in achieving your mission or living congruently with your purpose? Writing it down can help.
- Look back at what positive qualities you wrote about in your application to get into medical school and use them to expand your list.
- Ask someone whose opinion you value and who you trust to list what they see as your strengths and positive qualities. Did they identify any that you need to add to your list? Notice any good feelings you have when hearing about these qualities.
- Put your list away, come back to it again later, and see if you can expand on it.
- Refer to your list regularly, especially when going into a tough situation or after experiencing a setback.
- Take one item from your list per week and think about how you can apply it to become a good doctor and, more specifically, achieve your mission and live congruently with your purpose.