When You Don’t Know, Just Say “I Don’t Know”

In the practice of medicine, there are a lot of things one doesn’t know. Even though medicine in the 21st century has come a long way from the practice of medicine in ye olde 14th Century, there are still lots of things that in general, medicine does not know or does not have an answer for.

The thing with dealing with your seniors as a junior doctor, is that they will press you on knowledge. You’ll be quizzed about things eg “what interleukins are responsible for fevers?” and the such. The senior doctors will naturally have the answers, since that’s why they asked you the question right? For me, I’ve gone through several embarassing moments of trying to “fudge up” the answers. I guess a part of my nature, is that I’m competitive, and don’t wont to be seen as ignorant, but that competitive nature makes me look foolish when I’m called out on my “fudged up” answers.

Saying “I don’t know” in medicine is perfectly acceptable, especially since medicine is full of uncertainties. Saying “I don’t know” means that you are recognizing your own limits of knowledge, and just because you don’t know now, doesn’t mean that you won’t know forever.

I was told that the only certain thing in life, is death. So too in medicine, the only certain thing is death as well. But the point of medicine, is to try and prevent this certainty occurring to the best of our abilities.

So, it’s perfectly ok to not know something, provided you are taking steps to know it later on, and to retain that information in your database. What you don’t know now, you’ll soon get to know. It’s about growth of oneself, and the ability to recognize our limits in medicine.


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