“I was mad at the ER, so I said, ‘Hope you have a quiet night!” as I walked out.”
There aren’t many people more scientific in their thinking or more evidence-based in their practice than physicians. And yet, like many of our sports heroes, many physicians are very superstitious. We know that saying the word “quiet” doesn’t actually change what happens. It’s such a prevalent superstition though, that there is one randomized trial that was designed to prove it! (Make that two randomized trials…)
Why are human beings superstitious? Particularly in the face of uncertainty (…so just how many patients will come into the ER tonight?) superstitions reduce stress by creating a sense of control. It has also been shown that superstitions increase self-efficacy, which in turn results in improved performance in sports and other tasks. Maybe this is why baseball players and other athletes are so superstitious?
My conclusion? I’m going to keep joining the chorus of groans from my team when the new medical student says [the-word-we-do-not-say] when we are on call. It makes us laugh, creates a sense of being in this together, and who knows… maybe our performance will be improved, too!