Telluride. The scenery and sheer beauty of this canyon town is enough to leave even the most verbose individual literally gasping for words to describe the majesty that we are lucky enough to wake up to every morning for the next four days. Even more so, I feel dwarfed and acutely aware of my mortality while bathed in the shadow of these mountains that have stood for thousands of years, and likely will stand for countless years to come. Ironically enough, I feel as though a direct metaphor can be drawn that correlates the uncertainty and timidity that every healthcare student feels when attempting to broach the topic of patient safety and thereby attempting to alter a system that has stood for centuries.
The largest hurdle to altering the course of healthcare in the U.S., as we are all acutely aware, will be to begin the process of communication with the older generations. As was put ever so quaintly today, “Empower the young and restrict the old”. How else will the future leaders of healthcare feel comfortable to challenge the “status quo”? If we cannot even begin to address our concerns with each other, how can we be expected to address the concept of patient safety and “teach an old dog new tricks” as it were?
As I sit in the first day, listening to the wonderful minds at work digging into the meat of the patient safety problem, I am acutely aware of a soft timid voice in the back of my mind. It is a voice that earnestly desires to be a part of the conversation, but one that experience has taught to stay quiet and demure to avoid the lash of a well aimed rebuke or the wheal of a stinging comment. I wonder how many brilliant voices have been squashed into submission by an institution that fails to see the pitfalls of its own logic. We have built a system that is primed to kill 100,000 patients every year, and I am proud to say that I am a member of a community that has decided to stand up and shout that enough is enough.
To me, Telluride is the first step of that path. We have only known each other 24 hours and already I have heard and shared more honest and open thoughts and ideas than I have since my childhood. Here no idea is too crazy, no perspective too broad to not be of use in crafting a dialogue that can be disseminated to medical and nursing schools throughout the U.S. and internationally.
And why should anyone bother listening to what I have to say? Because I have a voice, I have ideas, I am a person, and a patient just like all of you reading this. So speak up and let your collective voices trumpet patient advocacy and transparency of action. Because WE have a voice, we must demand to be heard.