It’s been a about a week since we left the conference and I had my first test as I was leaving Napa. I wanted to wait to share my reflections until after seeing how I felt after being back home. A lot of my past training experiences have been short lived, but I feel as passionate about our discussions, if not more, a week later.
On my flight back to Tampa, I sat next to a middle-aged woman. She sat in the window seat and I sat in the middle. When I got to my seat I chatted with her about her travels. She worked for a pharmaceutical company and her work required her to travel a lot and I shared my experience with the patient safety camp. Shortly after take off, I fell asleep and slept until we landed. As I woke up, I heard the lady talking about the company she visited being very unsafe and that she can’t write it all down for “legal implications” and she didn’t want to piss some physician off, but they can’t use that company. They had one order already, but I didn’t hear exactly what they planned on doing with it. She seemed very passionate about the issue, but it seemed like she wasn’t going to report it correctly. As we got our bags and walked into the terminal, she walked in front of me, calling different people to share the news. At this point I was starting to wake up a little more so I was finally realized that this is a patient safety issue, and can potentially affect a large number of patients. I felt that I should say something to her, I didn’t know what, but something to get her to do more. She kept walking in front of me, getting further and further, and I started to feel disappointed in myself. At this point she walked into the bathroom and I kept walking. I was still so tired that I used that to justify not talking to her. But then I thought how I just spent almost a week talking about patient safety and doing the right thing and speaking out and it was all for nothing. I even felt that I was disappointing everyone who I just met and made great connections with in such a short time. At that point I turned around and walked back and into the bathroom. As I walked in, she was already washing her hands so I didn’t have time to actually use the bathroom to avoid looking like a stalker, so I just walked to the mirror and then walked out behind her. She was on the phone again so I followed closely behind waiting for her to finish her conversation. At this point I felt like a full on stalker, but I already made up my mind to talk to her. Right before the exit, she finally got off her phone and I approached her. I told her that I overheard her conversation and it seems like there is a patient safety concern and I am worried. She looked startled and didn’t seem as open as she was when we spoke earlier. She said this was similar to a previous issue they had with compounding. I asked her if there is more she can do, and she just said that this information can be found on the FDA website and everyone has to do their legal diligence to find it themselves. Then she said she has to get on a conference call and she walked away.
I am hoping that she did end up reporting the issue correctly either because of her own conscience or because she was afraid that I had heard too much. I am not sure if I could have done more or if it had any effect on her, but the whole point is that after going to the conference I felt empowered to say something. And we should do more than just talk, but I know for a fact that I would not have approached this woman before. It’s just too uncomfortable, and if done at our workplace there comes the chance of being fired. And what’s probably even worse than being fired is being labeled, and losing the trust of our colleagues, but someone has to be the lone nut for the cause. This experience has had such an impact because it allowed me to connect with those who share the same passion and there is something very comforting knowing that there is a whole growing group of well meaning people supporting me. And at the end of the day, if we don’t speak up for our patients, who will?