I have looked into the future and it looks good

By Kim Oates MD DSc, Director, Undergraduate patient Safety Education, Clinical Excellence Commission, Emeritus Professor, University of Sydney

I am traveling back to Australia after once again being on the Faculty at the Telluride Resident Summer Camp, organised by David Mayer and Tim McDonald. Although I came to teach, I learned far more than I taught.

The course participants were 28 residents selected from across the USA for their passion and commitment to make a difference to health care by embracing patient safety. They ranged from Interns through Chief Residents and Fellows. They came from diverse specialties, united in their desire, not just to make a difference in their own work but to help develop safer systems in their work places. They were an inspiring group, a group representing some of the future leadership in this area.

When you look at many of the current leaders in patient safety, right around the world, the majority of us are, well, to put it politely “mature”. I often wonder where the next generation of future leaders is, where will they come from, a group which is young, dynamic and with a passion to improve patient safety right from their time as medical students.

So it was a great pleasure to meet some of them in Telluride. And it was reassuring because with the amount of talent and enthusiasm this group displayed it became clear that the future leaders in patient safety are now emerging.

Dave Mayer and Tim McDonald have been running patient safety summer schools in Telluride for almost 10 years, some for medical students and more recently for residents as well. In doing so, they are developing some of the next generation of leaders.

This course included discussion groups, role-play, sharing experiences and consensus building. We discussed the importance of open, honest communication between health professionals and patients and looked at strategies to reduce patient harm. Faculty gave insights from their own experiences and the residents shared  problems they had encountered as well as some very impressive innovations they had introduced in their work places.

The two movies “The Story of Lewis Blackman” and  “The Story of Michael Skolnik” opened discussions about the factors which led to these tragedies and how things could have been so different with open, honest communication, informed consent and open disclosure.

Some quotes: “Informed consent is a process”  “Stand in their shoes” “Don’t just accept the status quo, complacency can be your greatest enemy” “A conversation can save a life”.

Wherever their careers take them, this group knows that putting the patient at the center, communicating clearly and honestly, looking for opportunities to reduce error and seeing errors as opportunities for improvement are essential in every field of medicine.

Yes, I have looked into the future and it looks good. Looks good for who? For the people who come to us for medical care. They are what this is all about.