I was first introduced to the concept of improving patient safety during my college engineering capstone project. At the time, I naively believed that technology was the ultimate answer to healthcare’s problems. I was later fortunate enough to work as a data analyst for an organization with a tradition of starting every meeting with a patient safety story. As I sat there anxious to present my latest reports, the clinicians of the group would share a recent patient safety event whether it be a success, failure or near-miss. The impact of my tables and graphs paled in comparison to the words spoken by the clinicians. The emotions behind each story invigorated our group to continue working toward improvement. These moments inspired me to attend medical school where I could join the treatment teams in these patient safety stories, partnering with my colleagues, patients and their families in an effort make every story a success.
Three weeks into my clinical years, I am only just beginning to understand the nuances of teamwork, communication, and culture behind my pre-medical school aspirations. Even in this short period of time I can already see the patterns that can lead to patient safety issues in “Wall of Silence,” not only in the staff I work with but also within myself. The fear of disappointing an attending, the uncertainty of my role on the care team, the (appropriately) high burden of advancing my clinical reasoning has lead me at times to be more reserved and prevented me from making the connections with patients I envisioned before coming to school. I can imagine in the worst-case scenario that this energy persists, and I become a part of the narrative of young residents not being fierce advocates for their patients, leading to medical errors.
This Telluride Experience comes at a critical time in my development. I can’t wait to learn from the faculty and colleagues around me, and hopefully contribute well to the discussion this upcoming week. My experience may be limited at this point, but one of my main takeaways from the pre-readings is that patient safety is everyone’s responsibility. As an admittedly confused medical student when it comes to diagnostic workups, I can always be an advocate for the people we are caring for. I hope to take the inertia from the conversations and lessons learned in the coming days to fuel this key transitional point in my education, and maintain a focus on patient safety throughout the entirety of my career.