I started this program with a general feeling of wanting to be a part of the change, but I walked away with the knowledge of how to be a part of the change. Personally, I recognized the power of words in changing hearts and minds. During the role-playing scenario, I was very touched when the doctor sincerely acknowledged their faults and said “I am sorry” to the parents. Surprisingly, these three words “I am sorry” carried more weight than I realized and it made me reflect on the times when I should have extended an apology. Too many times, I had been too prideful with my family. It is much easier to blame the circumstances or even them for what happened.
Imagining myself in this conversation with the family during the same scenario, I feel more empowered to say: I am sorry that your loved one was harmed because of us, that we will never understand how you feel, but we will do our best to walk with your family from now on. I’m empowered now because I understand that improving patient safety is about owning up to mistakes and reflect on ways to eliminate systemic errors. Health professionals are guests in patients’ illness, and we need to extend to patients and families our vulnerability and honesty just as they trust us with their lives.
Just as I’m changed by words shared at Telluride, I hope to encourage and share these words with my peers at home. As I pass through the healthcare system in my training years, I want to thank and get to know the staff who helped to make the hospital a safe, accessible, and welcoming place to be. To start changing the culture around patient safety, I know that change will begin with me. And it already has, because I learned to say “I am sorry and thank you for allowing me to take care of you, my dear patient.”