Posted at 10am 18 October 2019.
I’m sitting here writing this just after 9am on the 18th of October 2019. In less than an hour, the decision from my NCAT (NSW Civil and Administrative Tribunal) appeal relating to the conditions on my medical registration will be made available to me, to everyone. Even having sat through the entire hearing and heard all the evidence, I have no idea of what will be in that document. Honestly, I am not completely ready for it, because the information that decision will be based on is extremely personal. I haven’t been able to write about what was said, the evidence presented, the Board’s approach, or what may have been missed; that has been hard too.
I know the task before the panel of four couldn’t have been easy. There were thousands of pages of evidence. For every page they had, there were ten more pages they could have had. I’ve been considering for many months at what point I might be ready to write about the experience of going through the case. Having waited almost three months since the conclusion of the hearing (waiting for an outcome), I realised this morning I am far from ready to talk about the process of going through the case: It has been, at the very least, exhausting, traumatising and immensely painful. On the other hand, it has provided me with an opportunity to learn so much about people, the medical profession, our society, our culture, change, and who I am (my values, my worth, and my character). So, without detailing the experience, I’m going to say I’m glad I’ve had that learning opportunity.
This morning I realised the outcome doesn’t define me, it doesn’t define who I am as a doctor, or what I have to offer. The outcome will be something that results from a combination of legal technicalities, caution, the experiences of four people I’d never met before January 2018 (two doctors, a Judge, and a community representative). Today I decided that something had to matter more than the outcome of the case, that thing that matters more, is me being entirely honest with myself, and other people about who I am as a doctor (not knowing if I will ever practice again).
A lot of people went into medicine to ‘help people’; I did. I mean, at my interview for medical I elaborated quite a bit on those two words, but ultimately, I did choose medicine (at a very young age) because I saw it as a profession I could go into and help other people. I didn’t know much about the medical profession. I don’t come from a family of doctors. During medical school I discovered the area of medicine I’m truly passionate about and have at least some talent in. I still want to help people. And, whether or not today’s outcome allows me to practice medicine again, I’m going to be helping people (whether it is through practicing medicine or working as a disability consultant).
I’ve been a patient a lot. I’ve had mental and physical health issues. There have been doctors who have helped me incredibly, and there have been doctors who harm harmed me. Who am I as Dr Arlene Taylor? What’s my commitment to my patients?
Knowing that I can never commit to being perfect, and being aware of my own weaknesses and limitations, I commit to the following with respect to my clients, or possible future patients:
- On each occasion you see me, or I am involved in your journey, I’ll put in my best. I will take as much care as I can to ensure that the advice and assistance, I offer you is the best advice possible and in your interests.
- When you walk through my door, I will treat you how I would want to be treated in the same situation. I will ensure that in helping you as a client or patient that I do not forget how vulnerable someone is when they are in that role; or how vulnerable I have been in that role.
- I will be honest with you if I don’t know what will help you, or whether the solution I propose will work in your situation. When I don’t have enough information or knowledge to help you effectively, I will try and find you someone else who has that information.
- If I make a mistake, or an error, while trying to help you (in good faith), I will tell you that I made that mistake. I am human, I know at some stage I will make a mistake. I will apologise to you for any harm that comes to you even if I didn’t mean for that to happen. And, by nature of who I am, I will feel bad that something I have done has harmed another.
- Should I realise that something I’ve done in error means I need to improve my own knowledge and skills, I will seek out a person or resource that will allow me to develop that knowledge and those skills.
- In every interaction I have with you, I will be mindful that I am not walking in your shoes, I’m not on your journey, and I have no right to judge you.
- Where you don’t take my advice, I will not be offended or take it personally. I will respect your right to autonomy in your life and the decisions you make. If you later decide you would like my help, I will still try to help you if I think I can.
- I will engage with my colleagues, listen to their advice, thoughts and experience and treat them with respect. Where my opinion differs to theirs, I will review the evidence they rely on and give them the opportunity to review the evidence I rely on. I will never treat it as a battle of pride, but as a means for identifying what will help you, my patient or client, the most.
- If I see a peer or colleague behaving in a way that is causing you harm or placing you at risk, I will raise that even if that is not comfortable for me. I will put aside my own experiences and do what I need to do to ensure your safety.
- If I am unwell such that I can’t function well enough to maintain all these commitments to you (my clients/patients), I will take time out to look after my own health. I will listen to my treating doctor and allow myself to be vulnerable with them, as you do with me. When recovered, I will come back and keep trying to help you with your challenges.
Therefore, not knowing what my appeal outcome will be, that I will be reading in only a few short minutes, I am satisfied within myself that:
- I am a good doctor;
- I am someone who understands they are not and can never be perfect;
- I know the boundaries and when I may need to step back or seek help;
- I know my values, my character, my skills and limitations;
- I know my heart is in the right place; and
- Nothing in the decision can change any of this (only the context in which it is applied).