Good Communication Can Save Lives

Communication can save lives

Why can’t we slow down and see the patient? Why do we expect to get an informed consent when we don’t even sit down while we talk? Why can’t we talk?
It is usually during your training years when you get your first informed consent from a patient. Very often you don’t get the complete training and teaching on how this should be done. Is there a norm? Are people discussing consents in different ways? You’re so happy to have the opportunity of doing a procedure, so nervous and often uncomfortable that you forget you’re dealing with people’s lives… Did you ever stop to think how “informed” is your informed consent? Did you ever try to see how it feels to be the one signing the consent? How many times were you so excited about the procedure you were about to perform that you forgot to ask the patient (or parent in a minor’s case) how they feel? Did they hear you? Did they listen? Did they UNDERSTAND? Do they agree? Do they need someone to be there with them? Or…do they need more time?
We are so busy as residents and often, sometimes too often, we forget about the patient, we forget about the family, we forget to slow down, and explain to our patient the “what”, “why”, “ifs” and “how” the procedure, treatment, or intervention around the corner is going to happened…. It is almost like not including them in the decision process. We only need their names, theirs signatures, so we can move on with the procedure, and our daily activities.

Today it was another wake up call! Today we opened our eyes to see the consequences of poor communication, the effects of not slowing down and the lack of experience have on someone’s life…

When you hear a story like Michael’s your heart stop beating for a moment, your eyes are filled in tears, and the only thing you can think of is “this can’t be true”… But, Yes it’s true! Unfortunately medical errors are killing too many people, and communication is one of the main causes… I was just thinking that, while watching Michael’s and Lewis’ stories (in less than two hours), there are about 100 other stories that are ready to be told; during this time there are 100 other patients dying in our hospitals due to medical errors, and thousands of family members being hurt…. We need to work together, we need to communicate better, we need to find solutions, we need to advocate for patients and families…we need to take the role of guardians, implement a culture of safety and zero harm!