The other day, I was in an exam room with my mentor doing a physical exam. We were talking to the owners and I felt something on palpation that I hadn’t felt on my first pass. I asked my mentor to feel what I felt and he asked me what I thought. I told him my idea, which was based off of part of the history as well. He told me that I was probably wrong and why I was wrong. I nodded, and the day continued as normal.
Now, this doesn’t feel like it should be a big deal at the center of a blog post, but it is. Veterinary students do not like to be wrong – we’re high achievers and are used to being at the high end of the bell curve. For veterinarians, being wrong can be the difference between a pet living or dying. When I’m with my mentor, neither of those things matter.
When you ask someone for help, there is an intrinsic element of humility involved – you’re admitting that you can’t do something by yourself. That humility carries over into the whole mentoring relationship. It’s okay to be wrong with your mentor. It shows that you’re still learning, but that you’re also being vulnerable in a way that is difficult with an employer.
Once a new graduate gets a job, it feels like we’re expected to be fulling functioning veterinarians. Any time we ask for help, we’re not living up to the expectations surrounding us. Not only that, we’re preventing other veterinarians from doing their jobs. Being wrong on top of that is something that many of us are just not comfortable risking – it feels like we’re putting our jobs on the line any time we ask a question.
Something that hits closer to home for me is the willingness to speak up in class. When instructors ask questions to their veterinary student audiences, typically nobody wants to raise their hands and answer. Many of us are paralysed by the fear of not just being wrong, but being wrong in front of our peers. This paralysis prevents us from making the most of our education – information sticks better when you interact with it.
It’s not just okay to be wrong; it’s also healthy. We’re part of a high achieving profession that doesn’t like to be wrong, and that’s okay too. The humility intrinsic to a mentee in a mentoring relationship helps alleviate that aversion to being wrong and helps us to learn and grow to be more than who we are today. That’s why DVM Mentor can help a new graduate so much, connecting us with mentors that we can be wrong with and also have no risk associated with being wrong.