One of the phrases from Telluride that stuck with me the most was the idea of creating a “culture of safety.” To me, this epitomizes the teamwork that every care team should have to optimize patient care. One of the most difficult aspects of medicine is the rigid hierarchy – as a medical student, I generally feel uncomfortable correcting residents or attending physicians if I notice something that strikes me as odd, such as not adhering to proper protocols. In a culture of safety, the hierarchy disappears – everyone on the team is responsible for the well-being of the patient, and everyone should be encouraged to speak up.
After I returned from Telluride and was working on a project where I was observing hand hygiene in the ICUs, I kept the “culture of safety” in the forefront of my mind. I noticed when students and nurses were encouraged to speak up on rounds, and I observed a resident leading a “time out” before performing a procedure. When I noticed that a patient with C. difficile infection didn’t have proper precaution signs on his door, I brought it up to the infection prevention team – and in a situation where I would normally be nervous and uncomfortable, I felt empowered and encouraged. The rest of the infection prevention team was receptive to my observation, and I felt that the “culture of safety” was already beginning to take shape for me. I am so grateful to have had the experience at Telluride to encourage me to notice important aspects of patient safety in the hospital and to empower me to speak up to prevent possible medical errors from occurring.