We Can Do Better: Telluride Reflections by Madeline Rovira #TPSER9

Wow.  I’m not even sure how to reflect on the amazing day we had today.  From the horrors of the Michael Skolnik case video, to the excitement of being the first group ever to save Stewie (our egg ‘patient’),  to the heartbreaking story that Carole courageously shared with the class, today has been emotional and eye-opening.

So many moments today, as we listened to and became engrossed in the narratives being shared, I found my face scrunched up or my mouth falling open wondering how we could possibly treat our patients and families in some of the ways that we do.  I like to believe that people are good and generally do the best they can.  And yet, hearing about health care providers who ignore and belittle a mother worried about her child, or administrators who threaten a mother who just lost her child to medical neglect, or a physician who performs a surgery he is not qualified to perform, or hospitals that hide medical records containing the truths that could give some closure to a family, I find myself faced with conflicting pictures and refuse to believe that this is as good as we can do.

I am not satisfied with the response that we only know how to prevent the egregious actions taken by the hospital after the appalling death of Carole’s daughter, and that the events prior are just much more complicated and since they are medically related they somehow become less preventable or less in our control.  If this was the case, none of us would be where we are.  I will not, I cannot, settle for this status quo as good enough.  We know better and we have to do better.  The excuse that patients are just so much more complicated and medicine is inherently dangerous is a poor excuse for the suffering and pain we routinely cause.

For as long as I can remember, I dreamed of being a doctor – someone who cures the sick, heals the injured, and returns loved ones to their homes.  In recognizing the chasm between my childhood view of medicine and the reality I am learning more about, I think I am finding the reason why work in quality improvement and safety is so exciting to me, and why I am comfortable not knowing what field of medicine I will practice as long as this is a piece of it.

Thank you Carole for your story – your daughter’s story.  Your courage and resilience is inspiring.