Crying Wolf

This post is a day late in coming, but it’s still a relevant concern of mine.

Yesterday was the first day of our patient safety camp/conference, and we spent a lot of time talking about communication and speaking up if you see something going wrong, especially if you’re lower down the hospital hierarchy.  As a medical student, I imagine this scenario as a med student or a resident doing rotations in the hospital.  Being the med student who doesn’t know anything or the new resident who’s green, I can easily imagine situations where I might think something’s off with our diagnosis or treatment plan for a patient, and my concerns are brushed aside as the concerns of an inexperienced learner.  At some point, hopefully, I’ll be lucky enough to work with an attending who does listen to me when I raise a concern, but the tricky thing is that there will be plenty of times when I raise concerns, and it turns out to be a false alarm because I will be an inexperienced learner.

Health care workers talk about alarm & alert fatigue in that there always seems to be machine alarms going off, and alerts popping up in the electronic medical records. Because of the sheer volume of alarms and alerts, over time, many health care workers begin ignoring them. I absolutely understand the importance of speaking up when I see something that could impact the safety of my patients, but I worry that if I raise too many false alarms, then my attending may stop listening to my concerns. How do I express my concerns in a manner where my superiors continue to listen when I raise a concern rather than starting to “tune me out” because in the past, most of my concerns have turned out to be false alarms?  How do I raise my concerns in a way where I don’t become the girl who cried wolf?

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