Day two was equally as packed and we again started with a very moving yet tragic patient story of Michael Skolnik who lost his life because of a lack of proper informed consent – the medical system designed to keep him alive, failed. I am reminded of the Swiss cheese model of accident causation highlighting the systematic failures that led to Michael’s preventable and unfortunate death. There were so many opportunities during his care that if a proper system check were in place, he may still be alive and well. His story is a painful and humbling reminder that as physicians, and, more broadly, as caregivers, we have an unbreakable commitment to our patients and we must always advocate for them because at the end of the day, the care we provide is for the patient.
Our patients (and/or their families) must make the ultimate and final informed decision regarding their care. As providers, we may not know the right answer and it’s okay to express that uncertainty, as long as we are honest and committed to finding an answer. Sometimes, the right approach for a patient is, what providers call, “the conservative” one, which is a more watch and wait strategy. We must learn to empathize with our patients and their families – connect with them at their level, which may translate into actively listening and providing the support they need in the moment during the most extreme of circumstances.
Again, these concepts reflect a change in medical culture, which as Patient Experience extraordinaire, Richard Corder, so eloquently shared can be accomplished by, “starting to solve problems differently than before.” Culture change tends to be retrospective and a result of small changes with small-scale “wins.” Step by step, we can transform the medical community, all for our patients and their families.