Attending the Telluride Experience is important to me because I pursued a career in nursing in order to help my patients rather than hurt them. However, throughout my nursing education, I was told that I will make a medical error in some capacity at some point in my career. It was not a question of whether it will happen but when it will happen, and this never sat right with me. I always assumed that if I were to stay diligent and thorough in my work, then strong work ethic alone could prevent errors. After reading The Wall of Silence, though, I know that this is not true. Hard-working healthcare providers with the best of intentions still committed life-altering errors, and I believe that the amount of pressure we place on ourselves to prevent these errors likely causes exhaustion and burnout, especially when we fail in some way.
Patient safety is integral to good patient care because if we are to help individuals heal, then our primary responsibility is to keep them safe in our care. A medical error of any kind can set a patient’s recovery back a number of days, which forces us to correct our mistake before we can treat the patient’s primary ailment. This wastes time, energy, and money while also decreasing quality of life for the patient during his or her hospital stay, all of which goes against our goal as healthcare professionals to heal our patients.
I work in a system that expects me to make a mistake rather than a system that protects me and my patients from making said mistake. I believe that the Telluride Experience is an opportunity for me to network with an interdisciplinary team that is motivated to prioritize patient safety. With a large collaborative effort that includes perspectives from nurses, physicians, and medical students, we can consider patient safety from a broader scale. We know that we can drastically reduce medical errors as the aviation system has drastically reduced plane crashes, but it starts with the realization that we have adopted an attitude of complacency in regards to changing our system (a central idea in The Wall of Silence). It will take a persistent, concerted effort, but reducing medical errors is an attainable goal that we should be striving towards.