The Culture of Failure

The key to remaining relevant in a rapidly changing world is to have a drive to continuously learn and adapt. 
We strive to communicate that making a mistake can be an opportunity to learn and improve your practice to meet standards. To quote Jeff Miller “a culture of failure is about feedback that helps you make the mark next time.”
We interviewed an optician who went through the complaints process for breaching regulation. The optician was conducting services they weren’t certified to do such as sight testing and was misleading patients that they were receiving eye exams.
We asked for feedback about what the optician learnt from going through the complaints process.
Power Dynamics
The optician we talked to has been dispensing for over 20 years and licensed for 6. The optician worked at a family practice, which his father owned. When the College notified the optician that a complaint was submitted about them, they were nervous but not surprised. There was a discrepancy in what their store advertised, versus what they had the authority to practice.
“I knew something [a complaint] was going to happen eventually because my dad put the sign up and we argued back and forth for a while. I didn’t own the optical so I didn’t really have a say. I could tell my parents to take down the sign, but would they listen to my opinion? That’s another question.”
There can be complex power dynamics that influence situations. It can be difficult to balance those power dynamics with your duty as a health care professional. But at the end of the day your duty is to your patients.
“The power struggle is tough… I don’t want to jeopardize a person’s health, but [when] working with family you’re [stuck] between a rock and a hard place. I just couldn’t work with my father anymore.”
Continuous Learning
Some of the key lessons the optician outlined that they learnt from the complaints process were: to further respect the value of licensure, the college, and the regulations, to deliver better patient care, and the importance of continuous learning. There is a purpose to meeting the standards – patient care. In this case, the optician had to go through a process of making a mistake to help them understand that they were not upholding the standards for safe, competent and ethical patient care.
“I learned to respect that we [opticians] are licensed, we do have you, the College, and that we have to follow the guidelines; I respect that. Anybody can fall out of the line, but I believe that having the complaint against us put in the back of our minds what we should or should not do. It never hurts to contact the College to ask if what you’re doing is right.”
“I don’t look for the almighty sale anymore. If we [opticians] follow the guidelines that the College gives to us, then we can better follow and respect aspects of the customer…Following the standards makes you more of a professional and there’s value in that.”
Going through a complaints process for the first time can be intimidating. The optician we interviewed stated:
“It’s scary, especially when you’ve been in hot water. You look at it going, I don’t want anything to do with this anymore, but it was actually better to talk. People are afraid to call the College, I would have never thought about calling before the complaint, but since then, yeah I’ll pick up the phone. It’s a smart thing to do because it’s all for the patient’s care.”
Failure can be intimidating as we live within a culture that equates making mistakes with failure, and failure with negativity. It’s important to understand that failure does not have to be negative. At the College, we believe that failure can be positive; it can help an individual reflect and grow.
“I did learn a valuable lesson going through this. I don’t regret having a problem with the College. I think it’s helped me become a better optician; it made me open my eyes, and see the ethical things. It was scary at first, but I chat with the College staff now. Before the complaint, I wouldn’t have talked to the College in a million years. It’s helped me. I appreciated what the College did for me.”
Making mistakes can be an opportunity to learn, improve your practice, and improve your role as a healthcare professional.  One report published by Scientific America stated that making mistakes matures and alters our brains, and that can make you smarter.