If I’m going to be completely honest, the biggest reason that I applied to The Telluride Experience is because I didn’t have much experience with Patient Safety nor know anything about it. Someone just told me about it and said “this sounds so you…” and I just went with it. So I came to this conference thinking that it would be a really good opportunity to hear about everybody else’s experience and learn from them.
What I did not realize was that a medical error has recently unfolded right in front of me. What’s worse is that I have been directly involved in the care of that patient and was not aware that I have been unconsciously blocking it out and just not thinking about it. I walked into this conference genuinely thinking that I have never seen or been part of a medical error…however, as each layer of the patient safety onion has been peeled in front of us in this conference…that patient encounter kept coming back to me and I’m seeing how things were going wrong. Past me would be so embarrassed to see present me after thinking I was immune to this. But it only takes one medical error to change you just like it only takes one to impact our patients’ and their families’ lives forever. And this conference, only two days in, has already got me thinking about what I can do about this and make it right by my patient.
I have experience working closely with the community as a municipal health officer and, at the same time, the only doctor in a small rural town. I have been advocating for families and patients from the grassroots. I saw how access to healthcare was difficult and understanding how healthcare works is even more difficult for my patients. I felt fortunate that at that time, I was able to literally hold the hands of the family as we navigated it together. However, now, as a resident, I do not have the luxury to do that. My role is completely different. And the problems that I encounter are completely different. And I feel fortunate that I can be part of this experience and learn more about what I can actually do in this current role. (I guess it would be prudent to mention that I received my medical education and practiced medicine in my home country before; and that I am currently slowly familiarizing and integrating myself into a new healthcare system.)
There have been countless times that I have thought that things were rough as a resident — part of it is just being in the medical field where lives are literally in our hands, and another part of it is just how training takes over our lives. There are systemic issues with training that we have all just accepted to be part of our careers. What doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger…and a lot of us just accept it and think that this will eventually be over. Today, I realized that I have always wanted to do things that will help make things better for my colleagues (and future colleagues) but may have somehow forgotten to take care of myself. And I am sure that a lot of my colleagues feel the same way when they dedicate their waking hours (which honestly are most of the hours during the years in residency) to helping and advocating for their patients and not have time to advocate for themselves. I truly appreciate the path that a lot of people before us have been paving to make things betters. And there just continues to be more work to be done (yes, an hour-long lecture on “wellness” once a month isn’t really making that big a dent just yet)….and I would be happy to learn and help continue that work.
And in line with continuing this work…this conference has helped me appreciate one of our mentors at work even more who has been doing a great job at promoting patient safety and promoting a just culture in our residency program. I know there are a lot of people who do not appreciate her efforts and found it bothersome when she tries to integrate these things into our already super busy and overwhelming resident life. What I thought was funny, was that my co-residents have been joking around that I am a “mini-her” and that I’m the only person who’s appreciating and trying to emulate her efforts. And it just brought me back to a video that was shown to us on the first day about the dancing shirtless man. I have been her lone follower — and intend on continuing dancing with her no matter how silly other people may see this and hope that what I’m doing will snowball from here.