Dr. Sanson shares a reflection on her experience speaking with Dr. Pensa at FIX18.

This past October, I had the privilege of speaking alongside Dr. Gita Pensa at FemInEM’s FIX18 conference. Dr. Pensa unflinchingly shared her ordeal of living within the restraints of litigation for 12 years.

At the beginning of our shared talk, we asked each physician present to raise their hand if they had faced litigation. All across the crowded auditorium, hands rose. Some hands shot up quickly. These were likely physicians who have made it through to the other side of what is a long and painful journey, physicians looking for camaraderie, a shared wound. Other hands crept up cautiously. I suspect these hands belonged to physicians for whom this experience is fresh, new, and terrifying. These physicians, perhaps, still grappling with shame and fear as the complaints brought against them have forced a reexamination of the doctor they imagine themselves to be.

There was something profound in the experience of looking around that room, hands raised everywhere. In that moment existed a powerful truth made visible: we are not alone in this hardship.

It is a hardship unique in its ability to tear down our concepts of worth and competence. We build ideas of who we are, the type of physicians we are, the manner in which we give care. Litigation forces us to reexamine everything about who we are. It is vital, life-saving even, to remind each other— and ourselves— that these experiences are not reflections of our care, our passion, our worth.

As the result of our talk, both Dr. Pensa and I were approached by numerous physicians, each with the own story, their own pain, their own path. This response speaks directly to the importance of giving voice to the experience of litigation stress, and proactively developing the personal skills and community support to weather the process.

It is neither healthy nor necessary to endure these painful experiences in solitude.

Through conversations and gatherings like FIX, it is our hope that real, lasting cultural change around litigation will occur. To do this, we must be willing to share. We each have a story to tell. I encourage all physicians to listen to Dr. Pensa’s narrative.

Litigation stress is a near-universal experience for physicians. How do we cope? Let us begin by investing in each other and ourselves, living in celebration of our humanity.

Watch their FIX18 talk below!