<img height="1" width="1" style="display:none;" alt="" src="https://px.ads.linkedin.com/collect/?pid=2363724&amp;fmt=gif">

Fighting Imposter Syndrome

You're in the clinic and about to walk into a room to see a patient with a non-specific chief complaint like dizziness. In your head, you know the dizziness could mean something benign and self-limiting or emergent and life-threatening. You know you learned about the HINTS exam in your training, but now you're questioning if a positive head impulse is good or bad. You're starting to think, "Gosh, do I know anything? Why did these people hire me?" If you relate to this, you may have experienced imposter syndrome.

Imposter syndrome is characterized by feelings of inadequacy, self-doubt, and a fear of being exposed as a fraud despite evidence of competence. You've gone through rigorous training, earned an advanced degree, passed a challenging board exam, and a state has given you a license to practice, but you still feel like a fraud. It's easy to see how imposter syndrome impacts individual clinicians, but did you know it also impacts patient care? Imposter syndrome contributes to:

  • Reduced Confidence and Decision-Making: Clinicians experiencing imposter syndrome may struggle with decision-making and lack the confidence to make timely and accurate clinical judgments. This can potentially hinder patient care by delaying necessary interventions. A lack of confidence in clinical judgment can also lead clinicians to order unnecessary diagnostic studies "just in case" their initial clinical judgment is wrong. 
  • Communication Challenges: Effective communication is crucial in healthcare. Imposter syndrome can lead to hesitancy in expressing concerns or seeking input from colleagues, impacting the collaborative nature of healthcare teams. Often, clinicians struggling with imposter syndrome will not ask for help from clinician peers to not be found out as not knowing something.
  • Burnout and Stress: The constant fear of being "found out" may increase stress and burnout. This, in turn, can compromise a clinician's ability to provide high-quality patient care in the long term. 

So we know imposter syndrome is not good for us, our healthcare teams, or our patients, but how do we overcome imposter syndrome? Here are five steps you can take today to start fighting this common phenomenon: 

1. Acknowledge and Normalize: You are not alone!
  • Recognizing and acknowledging imposter syndrome is the first step toward overcoming it. Understand that many healthcare professionals, regardless of experience, share similar feelings.
2. Seek Mentorship and Support: Get help.
  • Establishing a mentorship network can provide valuable insights and guidance. Sharing experiences with trusted colleagues can offer reassurance and perspective, helping combat feelings of isolation.
3. Tell yourself the truth: You are smart!
  • Remember what is true: you didn't get this far without gaining some knowledge. Write down a mantra you can meditate on when those imposter-feeling start to well up. One of our Hippo clinicians says to herself before every shift, "I am a good clinician, and I care deeply about my patients, but I don't know everything. It's ok to ask for help."
4. Invest in yourself: Continue to grow as a clinician.
  • Staying updated with the latest medical advancements and participating in ongoing education reinforces competence and confidence. Continuous learning helps clinicians remain at the forefront of their field. This is why we at Hippo exist: to help you stay up to date with the latest trends in medicine and feel prepared for your next clinical shift. 
5. Cultivate a Growth Mindset: You can do it! 
  • Embrace challenges as opportunities for growth rather than as indicators of incompetence. Recognize that everyone, regardless of their level of expertise, encounters challenges and has room for improvement.

Imposter Syndrome is a shared experience among clinicians. By acknowledging, normalizing, and actively working to combat imposter syndrome, we can enhance our confidence, ward off burnout, and face our next shift feeling like skilled clinicians! We want to provide you with a community where it's ok to be honest about where you want to grow as a clinician, and we want to help you be the best MD, NP, or PA you can be! 

Published by Katy Vogelaar, DNP, APRN, FNP-C, CNE March 13, 2024
Katy Vogelaar, DNP, APRN, FNP-C, CNE