Climbing Mountains Related to Improving Patient Care

Patient Safety Roundtable Hike Destination

Bear Creek Falls, Telluride, CO Final Destination Telluride Patient Safety Roundtable Hike June 2011

 As we were making the five-hour drive from Telluride back to Denver, Tim McDonald likened the movement toward transparent, patient-centered care to climbing the same mountains that surrounded us that week. A team building 2.5 mile hike up to Bear Creek Falls at an ending elevation of ~10K feet on our third day at the Telluride Patient Safety Educational Roundtable provided plenty of opportunity to get to know our fellow attendees on both a more personal and professional level. It also served as a wonderful analogy, as Tim suggested, to the challenges inherent in delivering patient-centered care by teams of individuals who bring a variety of strengths, weaknesses and skill to each encounter.
As we climbed the mountain, sharing stories of our families and our work lives, we all grappled with the demands of the environment. Some were better physically prepared for a hike at altitude, others were overcoming fears–of heights, of their ability to make it up and back, of being able to keep pace with the group. But a wonderful thing happened along the way. Any weaknesses some in our group may have experienced along the route were eagerly supported by the strengths of others. As a result, all made it up to see the majesty of the natural falls rushing strong off the mountain side. Respect for each individual in the group was the first priority, regardless of hiking experience or ability, and everyone ultimately benefited from that respect.
Providing care to patients can indeed be similar to hiking at altitude. The environment is going to make demands upon care providers that are outside of their control. As a care team, the choice exists to respectfully support one another in the face of those demands or not. Dr. McDonald’s analogy of improving care and climbing mountains is spot on, on so many levels, and I know, having hiked a number of mountains, that traveling with a supportive group not only makes it more enjoyable, but is also the safest way to travel.


Future Caregivers, Law Students and Patient Advocates Join Forces to Create Curricular Models For Open Honest Communication in Healthcare

The final day of our Telluride Roundtable on “Open and Honest Communication Skills in Healthcare” focused on reflection of the past weeks work and next steps in how best to disseminate the outcomes and products created from our work. One of the special highlights of the Roundtable was the interactions, conversations, sharing and bonding that occurred between our students and our patient advocates during the week. Students told us how they were so positively impacted by the advocate’s willingness to share their stories related to medical error, their passion to help educate, and their continued commitment to making care safer for all of us. Working with, and getting to know, patient safety advocate leaders Helen Haskell, Patty Skolnik, Dan Ford, Carole Hemmelgarn and Rosemary Gibson over the course of the week left lasting impressions on all the students. Both students and advocates identified a number of projects they will collaboratively move forward in the weeks to come.

Over the next few weeks, we will be pulling together all the work completed during the past week and will begin posting consensus curricular models developed by participants on open and honest communication skills in healthcare. We hope the curricular models presented will generate important conversation by visitors to our blog and lead to possible implementation of these models into health systems and health science schools.

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