Learning from Failure

Posted by: Eleanor Wallace - Posted on:

Hello from an (unusually) sunny Cornwall!

So this is my first blog since joining the scheme around 6 months ago (it feels like last week, honestly) and I wanted to start off on a topic that’s been on my mind a lot recently; failure.

For the last few months I have been acting in the role of an operational manager in a large acute trust. It’s been a whirlwind of new faces, new systems, new everything! However, there have also been things that I’ve struggled to get to grips with. For example, at the start of my placement it was hoped I could lead a meeting looking at our ‘referral to treatment’ targets, but after 6 months I was still not in a position where I was confident doing this. I was also leading a trust-wide CQUIN improvement project that, if the end-of-year target was not met, had the potential to lose the trust a significant sum of money. I realised I was going to struggle to meet this target a few months ago and raised this with my manager, who decided to take back ownership of the project to ensure it met the deadline.

I’ve now changed placements and have been reflecting on the last few months, and a few things have been playing on my mind. Would I have still changed placement if I had been doing ‘better’?  Could I have done something differently to meet the CQUIN target? Does this mean I’ve failed?

The short answer is ‘no’ but it’s taken me a while to come to that conclusion. A big part of the NHS Graduate Scheme is that it provides the room to fail and to learn from that failure. It won’t be the only time I perceive myself to have ‘failed’, but this experience has given me a better set of tools and skills to cope the next time around. Tools like consciously trying to talk and think positively, so instead of “I didn’t do that well”, saying “next time I can try this approach”. Focusing on what I have achieved is a part of this positive approach; it’s really easy to focus on the negatives because that’s what our brains are designed to do. Our brains have evolved to focus on perceived threats, which may be physical threats, like an approaching predator, but nowadays are often psychological threats, to our social identity and status, for example. So, as difficult as it is, being able to hold your attention on the positives is a really key skill. Support networks, especially other trainees, are also vital and it’s important to not feel guilty about taking some time to engage with them. 

What I’ve really been talking about here is resilience, something that was mentioned a lot at the start of the scheme but I didn’t really fully understand it’s importance until now. The NHS is such a complex system that sometimes, you just have to accept what happened, learn what you can from it, and move on, hopefully to bigger and better things!

P.S if you fancy more regular updates on GMTS life, feel free to follow me on twitter @eleanorswallace

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Applications for the September 2021 intake will open in October 2020