The power of storytelling is a powerful tool, and I feel like the main takeaway from today was the impact of stories. I don’t think I’ve ever been so moved by so many patient stories than today, and what is more surprising to me is how wrong our perceptions of our patients were. Today we learned that what patients usually feel after a medical error has occurred is shock and/or disbelief, not anger. It was fascinating to hear how selfish it was for doctors to assume that patients would be angry at us and how this was a reflection of how, as doctors, we care more about protecting ourselves than protecting the patient.
Another thing that I found shocking was how different the outcomes were for all 3 of the stories we heard today about medical errors. They were all heartbreaking, but with one showing the extreme end of kindness, another the extreme end of inhumanity, and one wavering in the middle, It was powerful hearing all the right things that were done in one case versus how how awfully things were handled in another and really gave us rigid examples of how to act and treat the patients in a situation of medical error. I feel like today allowed me to gain a better understanding of how medical errors impact patients and their families and their subsequent lives after the medical error has been made. For example, I never would have guessed that a family member, after losing a loved one, would experience horrible bouts of anxiety and would avoid healthcare facilities for years, an effect that had a huge impact on their life. Having been able to talk to these patients and their families and see their generosity in forgiveness and their passion for prevention of future medical errors is something I will take with me as I move forward in my medical career.
The last thing I want to highlight from today is how shocked I am at the generosity of the patients who underwent harm and the families who dealt with the harm and/or loss of a loved one. Hearing these heartbreaking stories made me so hurt, angry, and in disbelief. I could not even begin to put myself in their shoes, and I had so much trouble seeing how they could be so generous with their forgiveness and not try to avoid the healthcare system altogether. I’m not sure if I could ever trust healthcare again if I ever went through what they had to go through. The fact that they all decided to come devote their life and time to be advocates for patient safety is so incredible to me, and I absolutely know that I will see their faces in all the future patients that I will treat.