“If You Are the Smartest Person in the Room, You Are in the Wrong Room”

A well known adage by Confucius that has survived throughout the last few thousand years in multiple translations, I remember being told a version of this phrase in Medical School that: “You may be the smartest one in the room, but you will never be the most experienced.” As a still relatively New Attending, I’m barely comfortable in my own skin. Whenever I’m not working (or playing Candy Crush), I spend my time reading up on patients, their conditions and how to manage them, even if it’s something I’ve seen a million times. I don’t entirely trust myself all of the time, and there’s for sure a bit of Imposter Syndrome; but, we’ll save that for another post. But as I have progressed in my medical training/practice and continued to move farther and farther in my experience of Medicine, as immature and naive as it is, I am never arrogant enough to believe I know everything and constantly check myself to make sure I stay behind that line. It has saved me sometimes and also possibly shown weakness, but my own life experiences all over the country have shown me that even for myself, my cumulative experiences contribute to my OWN perception of things and the way in which I interact with others and the world.

When I walked into the hospital as a brand new intern on my first shift overnight, I made sure to make friends with as many nurses as I could. I will never forget turning to Girard, a badass PICU/IMU nurse in our intermediate care unit and saying, “Hey man, if there’s a code i’m gonna be looking to you!” To this day, it is always a refreshing thing walking into a new hospital as a locum tenens and being greeted with humans that have been in Medicine for 20 years longer than I have. I bring, hopefully, strong leadership and team coordination but am an avid believer in team dynamics and listening to everyone on your team. One day I hope to be a veteran doctor, but there will always be someone more veteran than myself. By the nature of locum tenens and the gap in providers that i usually fill, there are often times at which I am the sole provider at a site. This makes it particularly hard to bounce ideas off of others. Therefore, after months of working mainly small hospitals I began to seek out larger settings with my knowledge becoming stagnant – I was running out of people to talk to and learn from in the room, so I decided to find a new one.

I learned that being by myself, while great in some ways, doesn’t stimulate intellectual growth and learning which is absolutely critical for a physician. I have recently been fortunate to find locum jobs at which I am no longer the sole provider. From a large Private Children’s Hospital to a Secondary Care Hospital, I have continued to experience the freedom and experience of being a locum tenens provider but have had opportunities for personal growth. While I’ve romanticized the idea of being on my own to learn in the fire, it’s hard to find direction. Self-teaching has benefits, but it isn’t the answer long-term as it’s frankly, limited by the Self.

So, if you ever feel like you are running out of conversations in a room, change the room, seek a new environment. I have never thought of myself as smarter than other people, but in a room in which there is one person, it’s difficult to argue against it. The more I learn, afterall, the more I realize I don’t know.

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