Why is Pushing the Wrong Button So Easy?

By Sarveshwari Singh

On the first day of the Telluride East Summer Camp, Kathy Pischke-Winn and Dr. Joe Halbach organized a game using dominoes.   It really showed how miscommunication in health care can happen so easily and how simple steps can prevent it.

We assembled in groups of three — one person role-played a doctor, another a nurse, and the other an administrator.  The physician sat with his/her back to the nurse and instructed the nurse how to arrange the dominos according to a prescribed pattern.  The nurse couldn’t ask any questions.  Not surprisingly, the nurse didn’t arrange them correctly.

This scenario brought home how communication disconnects among clinicians happens so often in health care, and it underscores why a leading cause of errors is failure in communication.  Also, informal rules can deter students and residents from asking questions, which can lead to a really bad outcome. That’s what happened to Lewis Blackman, as we saw in Tears to Transparency.

Next, the group got a different domino pattern and could have a briefing before the start of the game.  Also, I noticed that in our group, the person playing the physician gave more precise instructions and repeated them for more clarity.  So there was learning and improvement between the first and second rounds. This time, the person role-playing the nurse arranged the dominoes correctly.

I took away from this experience lessons on how I need to be precise in communicating, whether in the classroom, at work or at home.

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Being transparent…time for confessions

I found myself feeling upset today, especially as we were discussing the case study. I felt so frustrated as a nurse when we were trying to figure out the accountable person for the patient fall. I felt like I had a weight on my shoulders. As nurses, we do shoulder a large portion of the responsibility related to patient falls. We talked this afternoon about how it is EVERYONE’s responsibility to help WATCH the patients in an effort to prevent falls.

I also confessed to my group that a lot of times I do not feel comfortable going to lunch when I am staffing. Why, you might ask? I know part of it is that it is hard for me to hand over control of my patients to another nurse, even if only for 30 minutes. So, I am working on that. The other part is that I work with a young group of nurses (young in experience), and so sometimes I am nervous about leaving my unit. I know that I need to build better trust. It will be one of my goals.

#TPSER9 Reflections: Day Three

By Mary Blackwell, Nursing Student, UPenn

By the end of day three my mind is saturated and I feel so lucky to have the opportunity to be here at the Telluride East Conference. Aside from the twins in utero, as a rising senior in UPenn’s undergraduate nursing program I am certainly the youngest conference attendee. As a student, and a nursing student at that, in the hospital I often feel like the lowest on the food chain. But in this environment of open communication the medical hierarchy collapses and it amazes me to see various healthcare professionals come together for the betterment of patient outcomes. Never before have I had personal connections or meaningful conversations with interdisciplinary healthcare students surrounding issues in healthcare. Because it is so clearly valuable to have these types of conversations, I wonder why academic programs don’t put a larger effort into connecting various healthcare students during their training. Having positive experiences with one another while we’re all still humbled by the title of student could change the culture of staff dynamics in our future clinical settings.

Over the course of the past two days we have heard several stories of near miss or sentinel events in hospitals across the country. As individuals focused on honing our clinical knowledge and skill, it is inevitable to put ourselves in the shoes of the providers in these cases. I shared the shame that several students expressed during these presentations. It was difficult to watch mistake after critical mistake during the tears to transparency videos. It made me cringe in frustration and anticipation as I watched medical professionals continue cause harm to trusting patients. It’s hard to imagine missing the telling vitals signs in the story of Lewis Blackman or passively allowing the sedated Michael Skolnik to sign a consent form. However the focus of our discussions have been that many of these errors arise from faulty systems, not faulty health professionals.

During Terry Fairbank’s discussion of human factors engineering I was able to understand how systems can keep professionals from practicing to their full potential. One of the great examples of systematic hazard was the nurse who accidentally hit the wrong button on the defibrillator in an emergency situation. Instead of delivering the necessary shock to the patient in cardiac arrest, the defibrillator turned off. This delay the life saving care for the patient decreased the patient’s chance of survival. I could imagine myself making this mistake as easily as I do when quickly pressing the wrong button on my cell phone or car. A normal error such as this could happen to anyone in a high stress environment. The instrument was poorly designed; the off button was green while the correct button in this situation was red and flashing. In our society, green means go and red flashing means stop so this design is counter-intuitive.

For the first time I appreciated my constant second-guessing as a student. It’s when patient care becomes routine, second nature that mistakes are easier to make without systematic support. It’s going to be great for us to all go back to our institutions hyper-aware of these systematic barriers.

Why are we afraid to admit we are human?

By Betsy Mramor, M2 MUSC

It seems like common sense for us to realize that we will all make mistakes at some point in our careers. So why are we so afraid of admitting this when it happens? Are our own egos so big that we can’t admit we are human? Why is it that this same humanity that our patients and society expect of us disappears in a mistake. By not talking about these mistakes we continue to allow society to form these unrealistic perceptions that the healthcare field is perfect. I believe that in order for the culture to change; this perception needs to be broken.  There is no other way for this perception to change unless mistakes are brought to the table, discussed, and proactive measures are taken to correct them. Sweeping them under the carpet will only end up reinforcing this perception of the perfect healthcare system. Not only will this perception be reinforced, but also the unacceptable behavior of hiding or covering up mistakes.

I was so happy to hear confirmation of my thoughts from Cliff. Earlier in the week, Cliff had told us a story about how he lost his first heart transplant patient. He told us how shaken he was afterward. So shaken that he came home and told his wife that he had a 100% mortality rate. The next day he was asked what he told his next heart transplant patient. He told us how he was completely honest. He told the patient it was his second time doing the surgery and he lost the first patient. I keep trying to place myself in this patient’s shoes. Would I let this physician do my own heart transplant? Even with odds not in his favor;  I would have let him. For myself, there is a feeling of comfort and safety that comes from someone willing to admit that he is just as human (imperfect) as me.

Trust and Safety in Medicine: Part One by Matthew Waitner M2

George_WashingtonI have been participating in the Telluride East conference taking place in Washington, DC since August 1. In the whirlwind two days I have been barraged by information, struggled through leadership, boggled by safety concerns, and simply overwhelmed by my own emotions.  To put it bluntly, this is the most interesting two days I have spent all summer, and even though I am exhausted, I am beyond stimulated by the experience of this conference.  One minute we are hearing from Paul Levy on negotiations and the next we are working on teamwork and leadership in a teeter totter game with 9 teammates, a 2×8, a cinder block and 2 eggs.  Suffice to say this is truly a hands on and experiential learning experience like none other.

In reflecting on the past two days I have stumbled upon many thought trains (thanks Cliff), but one that my psyche continues to grapple with is the following conundrum: How can the medical community as a whole commit so many errors as to kill nearly 100,000 patients yearly (for at least 13 years according to the IOM), and still be considered one of the most trustworthy professions in the country?

All I have to say is, whatever PR firm is handling healthcare’s interest deserves some large bonuses for pulling off this feat.  Nurses, Pharmacists, and Doctors all top the list here in the US according to the most recent Gallup poll in November (http://www.gallup.com/poll/1654/honesty-ethics-professions.aspx), nurses rank #4 and physicians #6 in Australia (http://www.readersdigest.com.au/most-trusted-professions-2013) and doctors rank #1 in the UK (http://www.gponline.com/News/article/1171314/Poll-reveals-doctors-trusted-profession/).  Seriously – this PR firm not only succeeded here in the US, but internationally as well.  I am stunned because on average (in the US) we kill 272 people per day due to medical errors which is the equivalent of two Boeing 737 crashing each and every day (total capacity per 737 = 137).

According to today’s presentation by Terry Fairbanks, we have a 1:616 adverse incident rate as a field – akin to bungee jumping in safety, while other professions soar in safety comparatively.  How could we possibly still believe then that healthcare professionals are still worthy of the patient’s trust? My only conclusion is that we as a profession do not deserve such accolades until we get our house in order and focus on patient safety.

What continues to be mind-boggling about this conundrum is that the population polled must have had some interaction at one point or another with the medical field.  Healthcare touches nearly every life in the country either directly or indirectly, and yet we are still given the distinct honor of being one of the most trustworthy professions.  This is even after Press Ganey scores (indicating mediocre treatment in the hospital, as any front-line employee will indicate), after outrageous hospital acquired infection rates (about 1.7 million yearly according to the CDC), and our dismal rate of iatrogenic death previously discussed.  Why are people not more outraged at these numbers?  As a future physician, these numbers are staggering and show that truly patients should not trust our professions.  So, truly, whatever PR firm is handling medicine must be doing one hell of a job and be making a killing in the process.  Seriously though, these numbers and our perception are at complete odds with one another and deserve to be honestly considered.

The only conclusion I have been able to draw from this analysis is that the healthcare profession has been given nearly implicit trust by our patients, by simply putting on a white coat, and we have done a horrible and dismal job of accepting that trust and caring for our patients safely.  Again I ask, where is the outrage?  Are people not doing the math? Where is the expose on 60 minutes or 20/20?  Frankly I’m surprised anyone trusts us at all, and if we are going to continue to receive such trust, we best make some changes fast to ensure that this trust is correctly placed.   From my perspective, somewhere in our profession, we have determined that while patients are the reason we exist, they are not to be treated as having such power.  Instead of being patient centered and safety conscious, we have turned healing into a business focused on doing more and caring less.  I am appalled as a future professional that this has been allowed to occur.  I, as many others reading this blog, came to this profession in order to diagnose, heal, and comfort people in their most dire need.  How could our profession have lost sight of our reasons for entering the profession in the first place?

Stay tuned for Part 2…

Collections of random thoughts for the day

Loved the discussion on communication and the different styles. When we were in groups for the case study, it struck me as interesting that the behavior of the surgeon in one version was not “bad”, but it still changed behaviors, and not in a positive way. Also, I was thinking about how I would feel if I were Naomi or Tess? I was thinking it would be hard to “rock the boat”, especially in a time-sensitive situation like an operating room, and especially at the end of a long shift / procedure.

I really like what Cliff had to say about why do we keep trying to hide information, when he was referring to his operation record. It is so true. We are all so egotistical, proud, scared, and a host of other emotions.

I like the thought of looking at the hazards, and not just the extreme cases. I think we do not talk about near misses, and these are huge learning opportunities for staff, as well as for thinking about system improvements. I appreciate the comments around “mindfulness”, and especially the dialogue between Gwen and Terry. I think I probably see things a little differently than Terry, but that is okay. I think of it this way. If a nurse is not mindful, goes on with some tasks, rather mindlessly, there is an increase for potential error. However, if a nurse is mindful during these tasks, I believe there is less chance of error.

Telluride “East” Kicks Off at Georgetown University in Washington DC

This week we transport the Telluride Patient Safety Educational Roundtable and Resident/Student Summer Camps to the heart of the nation’s capitol — Washington DC. Dave Mayer MD and Tim McDonald MD/JD along with faculty Paul Levy, Rosemary Gibson, Helen Haskell, Cliff Hughes, Kathy Pischke-Winn, Joe Halbach, Gwen Sherwood and more will educate the young of healthcare, sharing communication skills, patient stories and negotiation training in the spirit of keeping patients safe. The Telluride alumni numbers continue to grow, building that critical mass of voices who can share the wisdom of open, honest communication and transparency throughout medicine.

Student reflections on this year’s camps, as well as last year, are found throughout the Transparent Health blog, on Educate the Young and on faculty member Paul Levy’s blog, Not Running A Hospital. Look for additional reflections from this week’s class soon to come, and follow us on Twitter via #TPSER9. The goals of this week’s program follow.

TRANSFORMING MINDSETS III

“The Power of Change Agents: Teaching Caregivers Effective Communication Skills to Overcome the Multiple Barriers to Patient Safety and Transparency”

Patient Safety Student and Resident Summer Camp learning objectives:

By the end of the Patient Safety Summer Camp, students will be able to:

1.)   Describe in-depth at least three reasons why open, honest and effective communication between caregivers and patients is critical to the patient safety movement and reducing risk in healthcare.

2.)   Recognize and apply basic communication skills to improve effective communication among members of the healthcare team.

3.)   Utilize effective tools and strategies to lead change specific to reducing patient harm.

4.)   Implement, lead and successfully complete a Safety/QI project at their institution over the next twelve months.

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