Like many others, I chose to go to medical school to serve my community and make connections with patients to improve their lives and keep them healthy. While I have always loved science, public health, epidemiology and biostatistics have held a particular interest for me. I think that the way these interests coincide on a doctor-patient or hospital-patient level is through patient safety. Systematic ways of analyzing patient outcomes can provide a lot of feedback about what a provider or a hospital is prioritizing, and as we saw in Why Hospitals Should Fly by John Nance, systems are perfectly designed to beget the outcome that they consistently achieve. As a physician, someday I will have input into the system that I will be working in. I think it’s imperative that I get exposure to and learn now the common patient safety pitfalls and what I will be able to do to change the status quo.
In the hospital as well as in society as a whole, vulnerable populations are most at risk for poor health and adverse events. Therefore, they are most likely to be affected first when gaps in patient safety occur; they may not be able to afford quality healthcare or have the familial or educational resources to notice red flags when they do occur. Additionally, due to provider bias and stigma, they are least likely to be listened to when advocating for themselves in healthcare settings. I hope to go into primary care or addiction medicine specifically in under-served areas, where the systems already in place are most likely to fail my future patients. Improving patient safety is integral to the healthcare system because the system is broken if it cannot treat those most in need. Assuring that going to the doctor’s office or hospital is not going to leave a person in worse condition than they arrived is an expectation that currently, the healthcare system is unable to meet. If we are unable to accomplish this, we are hindered in the amount of good that we can accomplish.