I first chose to apply to attend this conference at the recommendation of my program director. In telling us about her past experience attending the conference, she reported it changed the trajectory career and had a true lasting impact on patient care for her. I value her opinion and thus looked into the program more. I thought about what patient safety meant to me as a PGY-1 in internal medicine. At that point and still now, I am learning the ropes of how to perform the best I can at my job. I am learning all the many important aspects of our health care teams and interdisciplinary staff and how how roles are alike, similar, and intersect. I am developing my skills in the art and science of medical decision making as I watch and model the behavior of senior residents, attending, specialists. I am learning how to function as part of a team and in the coming days, will start leading my own teams. I am learning, for better and for worse, that all my actions have consequences. Like all interns and those early in their career, I have stumbled through ordering the wrong diagnostic test or misspeaking in explaining something to a patient. Through all of this, I’ve become more and more aware of the hundreds of lives I’ve touched over the past year as I traverse residency. My days can be hectic, busy, tiring and often times I find myself on autopilot; however at what cost? What if one time pharmacy does not catch the medication I ordered by mistake? What if I forget to follow up on a management-changing diagnostic test? What if next time, by disagreeing with a nurse’s concern, it costs the patient harm? What if I forgot to include something important in a patient’s take-home discharge summary? How can I, one person, avoid all of these mistakes and in the coming days teach my interns and medical students?
I have come to realize, unfortunately, I lack the power to fully stop those mistakes from happening and furthermore, there are safety concerns that happen every day, all around me, that I am grossly unaware of. If knowledge is power, what if I at least had more knowledge? What behaviors could I change that could help prevent errors before they happen or catch safety concerns before they cause harm to patients? What tools could I learn from health care workers in other fields than me that would help me be a more well-rounded trainee? What habits could I build that would have a catalytic effect on the hundreds of patients, lives, I care for in my next two years of residency and beyond? I tried to think of all of my good habits that I have been trying to build over the last year that relate to safety: checking in with nurses in-person and introducing myself by name, utilized closed loop communication whenever possible, committing to better hand hygiene at all times. Given I am now at my most impressionable time of training, I thought of how many more good habits there are that I could be building and the other residents, interns, attending, students and others that I could teach.
This conference suddenly felt not like something I could do, or even should do, but needed to attend.