Over a decade ago, our nation’s healthcare sector was in upheaval following the disclosure of the Institute of Medicines report on deaths due to medical errors (IOM, 2000). In response, a Jedi warrior with a passion for patient safety education determined that someone needed to bring like-minded warriors together to discuss the plight of healthcare in America. Contemplating the vast need to join forces with other patient safety Jedi masters, the warrior identified and invited select masters to the table. In 2004, select Jedi made their way to a remote mountain in Telluride, Colorado. Over five long days and nights, each member of the Jedi council shared their knowledge and experience at the Telluride Roundtable. As the council members engaged in open conversation and consensus building, the initial plans for the rebellion against medical error became a reality. As each member shook hands and agreed to meet again the following year, the rebellion was born.
In 2008, two medical students and two residents with strong interest in safety and quality were invited to the Jedi roundtable. The four Padawan learners added their voices to the discussions while learning from the Jedi masters. The success of this model provided the inspiration for a new training academy for health science learners. The Council determined that a constantly expanding interdisciplinary educational program was needed to better prepare health sciences students and medical residents to understand, appreciate, demonstrate proficiency, and assume a leadership role in patient safety and quality outcomes initiatives. The learning opportunities would provide young Padawans with the knowledge and experiences that promote discipline competence and a sense of personal and societal responsibility for the delivery of safe, highly reliable patient care.
Padawan to Jedi Warrior: A New Hope for Healthcare
Despite our progress, we are facing a dark future unless we embrace the Force. By that, it means we must focus on what is happening around us, to be mindful, and commit fully to the rebellion on medical error. Recent reports estimate deaths due to medical error are not improving, and in fact, are now thought to be four times the number revealed in the 2000 IOM report (James, 2013). Although we have trained 450 Padawan learners over the past 6 years, our Jedi army cannot withstand the siege. Patient safety practices’ resulting in quality outcomes is the number one requirement for the provision of safe patient care. To meet this requirement, education and training in safety and quality must be the very foundation of every training academy. Instead of teaching to the content of national examinations, academic institutions should focus on creating effective learning that meets the needs of the health care system and the patients that are dependent on their care.
As I sit in the back of the training room, wearing my Yoda shirt and observing the newest team of Jedi warriors, I have to believe that the Force is strong in them. A Jedi must have the deepest commitment. We have coached them to focus on the present, to fully embrace and commit completely to providing safe medical practice. They have learned, and they have been tested. They are aware of the dark side and have acknowledged that we must beat the enemy all around us; medical error. As Yoda said, “Try not. Do. Or do not. There is no try” (The Empire Strikes Back, 1980)