I just received my peer evaluation from work. And I’m gonna admit: I was nervous.
“Yikes.” I cringed when I saw it in my inbox. Would my colleagues call me out for not being as sharp, fast, or adept as them? Would they fault me because I just cannot stomach a dislocation despite working in a pediatric urgent care for several years? (True story: I damn near dropped out while treating a patient with a dislocated knee: vagal response and a wheelie-office-chair brought in by staff caught me in the nick of time.)
The evaluation form was scored on a 5-point scale. I scanned the feedback form for all the sub-par 1’s and 2’s. Threes mean I am “meeting expectations.” Cool, I got some of those. Hold on: I’m just meeting expectations? Fours are something better: cool. And 5’s are consistently exceeding expectations. Yay, I got some of those.
I wiped a bead of sweat from my brow when I saw that I met or exceeded expectations (no 1’s or 2’s). And then I got to the free-text.
“Dr. Schofer is a joy to work with! I love hearing her laugh from in one of the patient rooms. Her laughter is contagious!”
“Her positive attitude is contagious. She is upbeat, hard-working, and thoughtful.”
“Always positive and upbeat, which brings great energy to the shift.”
“Skilled in her pediatric abilities. Always a pleasure working with her.”
The first thing that stood out to me was the relief. As humans, we have a very normal negativity bias. We look for the problem, the deficiency, and what needs fixing. Does that sound like medical practice to anyone else? It’s no surprise that I feared the feedback. I thought that I was going to be sliced and diced like I memories of med school and residency.
And then the second part spoke up louder and louder. A smile took over my face. I was looking at evidence that my approach is impacting my colleagues. I approach pediatric urgent care with a deliberate thought/attitude:
“No one comes to see me on their best day, but I’m damn sure their day will be better after receiving my love and care.”
That approach and attitude were created for the benefit of my patients and me: have fun and care. But here was the evidence that it apparently ripples out to my colleagues as well.
The third thing that stood out was my reflection of how this happened. I have made a very deliberate shift in the past months of working to my strengths instead of my “weaknesses.” That means that I whole-heartedly let the PAs and NPs take the dislocations (for obvious reasons) and I jump up for the patients with a complicated medical history, the families needing TLC and social support more than prescriptions, the families that the nurses come back and give “heads-up” about witnessed behaviors in triage, and the teen girls with 3+ months of abdominal pain who decide that it’s now time for urgent care … today.
My “weaknesses” do not matter when I am working to my strengths. I use my positivity and humor, my mirror neurons and connectivity powers, my listening and relational skills. And those skills work, for me, my patients and, apparently, my colleagues.
My strengths help me help others. They create a ripple effect. In fact, when we work to our strengths, we all have that power to create a positive ripple effect.
With that in mind, I have decided to do something very deliberately:
- Let my peers know now what strengths I see in them, how I appreciate them, how they make my day better.
- Ask administration to reconstruct the evaluation forms for peer feedback to identify and amplify strengths, identifying when peers are working at their best.
- Ask administration to solicit patient feedback, specifically asking about how to recognize the person who provided them excellent care. Who would they like to recognize for making their day better?
It’s time to flip the script on evaluations. How can we shine a light upon the strengths of the wonderful peers we are blessed to work with? How can we amplify their greatness, help them work in their own zone of genius? How can we recognize that we all have different, complementary strengths that overlap so that there are no weaknesses; there are just different approaches or different strengths to mobilize?
When we are all working in our own zones of genius, that’s where we create a culture of well-being.
Wendy Schofer is a pediatrician.
Image credit: Shutterstock.com