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.

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#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.

Trust and Safety in Medicine: Part 2 by Matthew Waitner M2 Georgetown

Perhaps, as Terry Fairbanks said yesterday, we should look not to our individual pursuits but the healthcare system that is in place.  Individually, we are each committed to the reason we put on the white coat – to cure, heal, and do our best to care for each of our patients.  And yet collectively as a system we are failing to provide that very goal.  How is it possible that such dedicated individuals are systemically failing – it would appear to be impossible, and the numbers certainly show that its more than just a few bad apples.  Perhaps our system needs to be overhauled.

I was struck at the insight that Dr. Fairbanks shared.  As a human factor engineer he explained that every other system in the world accounts for the natural errors in humanity.  There are fail-safes embedded in most systems to catch the errors before they cause undue harm.  Such fail-safes are not present in the culture of healthcare.  While every hospital is claiming to be patient-centered, we often fail to see the humanity within ourselves.  I am firmly convinced at this point that a systemic culture change is the only solution to our never-ending problem of patient safety.  Dr. Fairbanks made it clear that skill-based errors (or better put, automated errors) are the key to controlling our out of control safety issues.  In fact, as a first year medical student we learned in our neuroscience course about types of memory: short-term, declarative (semantic and episodic), procedural, priming, associative, and non-associative.  The last of these (non-associative learning) is when someone is habitually exposed to the same event over and over again that the event is done by rote.  This should sound familiar, as it’s the same as skill-based tasks that require automation or limited cognitive input in order to be achieved.

From my class example, this is when you live over a flight path (which I actually do), and you tune out the sound of the overhead planes because you hear them every few minutes.  Every once in a while a plane will fly lower causing a louder that normal event that triggers you to notice them again, and again with habituation it disappears from your thoughts.  So it is clear that our mind can become habituated by automated responses that require little cognition, and it is only when there is a difference that your routine is noted.  Hence is the case discussed today of the NICU heparin incident – habituation caused major medical errors.  I am fascinated by the idea that this system error could have been avoided if there had been a slight difference (a different shaped vial, a different drawer, any change from the expected norm).  Dr. Fairbanks would argue that this is how well-meaning, caring professionals make simple mistakes that cost lives – and it is not the individual practitioner, it is the system involved regardless of how mindful we may be.  That same error was noted in the book “Why hospitals should fly” when the flaps were not engaged yet 3 people confirmed a 15,15 green (indicating the flaps were extended) – it was the expected result and therefore it was what was seen.  These sorts of systemic errors are where the most margin for improvement can occur – because like any job, medicine becomes routine and we become habituated, and our brains are physiologically wired to become habituated.

To say this conference has been insightful would fall short of its true meaning in my eyes as a future medical professional.  These past two days have shown me that our profession is far from perfect (even though each of us strives for such), and requires some major safety overhaul before the public catches wind of our missteps.  In fact, I’m not sure how much longer we can pull the wool over their eyes before they catch us red-handed, and I’m not exactly sure how we have been fooling them for as long as we have.  The numbers are out there, the mistakes make headlines, and yet we are still more trustworthy than a stranger on the street, and we deserve no such pride.  As medical professionals, its time to put egos aside and start doing what we swore an oath to do: do no harm.

Telluride Day 2 Reflection by Yimei Huang Pharm.D Candidate 2015

The day started with Dr. Cliff’s “railmen story”–Listen to the Rhythm. I was deeply impressed by Dr. Cliff’s kindness to, and caring for others, whom he does not know and may never know. Not only did he give extra notice to the things easily overlooked as a passerby, but he also carried out his caring despite the inconvenience to himself. I was thinking to myself what in the world could stop this devoted man from becoming extraordinary? He is so caring to the world outside of his expertise, then what level of caring does he pay to his field? I was also reflecting on myself on how far I am behind him as for the caring heart—-how often I overlook what’s going on outside because I am already quite full with my own business?

A fun thing for today was Teeter Totter Game. This was my first time playing the game personally, and I really enjoyed the moments when our team worked so closely for a common end. At those moments, I felt so supported, accompanied and comfortable to come up with and share ideas with my teammates to work out a better plan. We were successful, but it was not the outcome itself that is dearest to me. It was the process before, during and after that 10 minutes. I would say every team has achieved this process and experienced the similar feeling as ours.

The most emotional and thought-provoking activity of the day was discussing the film “The Story of Michael Skolnik”. As I said in the meeting, I am curious to know what measures have been taken in the past ten years to improve. What has been done to cut off the unnecessary incentives that make surgeons desire to do procedures and even induce patients to agree? What has been done to guarantee a second-point checker for the clinical decision even when patients themselves do not have the second resource accessible? What has been done to ensure that risks are thoroughly informed rather than partially? How well is the fact of surgeon’s expertise and experience honestly communicated to patients? How often does it still exist that assuring patient of one senior surgeon to win their signature but actually carrying out the procedure by his/her student? Maybe taping or video taping the informed consent conversation would help? Maybe a consultant meeting with everyone involved in the case would help? Maybe a written form of patient’s teach-back document files to the supervision level would help? Where are we getting right now?

The day ended with a recap on Dr. Cliff’s Listen to the Rhythm. What an inspiring day!

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.

Slowing down to Speed Up

Day one reflection–Telluride East

by Scott Emory Moore

“We don’t run in the ER.”  

Early in my career as a new graduate nurse in a Level 1 Trauma Center, I remember hearing these words.  I do not remember why the nurse said this to me at the time, may not quite be the same reason as it comes to mind now, but it is a valuable lesson none-the-less.  In reflecting on my first day at Telluride East, it is evident to me that one person’s hasty actions can have tremendous impacts on outcomes and patient experiences.

Often in the healthcare industry we are quick to focus on speed and time rather than diligent and deliberate precision in the execution of the interventions.  Getting caught up in the fervor of the emergent situation does no good for us, rather it is when we slow down and take a full account of the situation that we are able to serve our patient’s best interests.

Slow down in order to speed up…

The Lewis Blackman story is a great example of the need to really take our time to ensure strong work and safe outcomes for patients.  Intentional focus on safety must be at the center of our work as healthcare professionals.  The stories of patient loss like Lewis Blackman must pave the way for improved hindsight, insight, and foresight surrounding patient safety.

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