Why we don’t ever say [the-word-we-do-not-say] on call…

“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!

1 thought on “Why we don’t ever say [the-word-we-do-not-say] on call…

  1. As an ICU nurse of 30+ years, I had to laugh at this because it is so true! I’m not particularly superstiticious, but this is such a long standing tradition it makes me smile 🙂
    I’ve read similar blogs and studies in healthcare related to full moons.
    The last part of your comments hit close to home…it make us laugh and creates a sense of all being in this together, whatever happens!

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