We Are All Students

The educational value of narrative and reflective learning is well documented in the literature. These educational powers are especially true in healthcare when teaching health science students and resident physicians risk reduction strategies in the provision of safe, high quality patient care. Wall of Silence, written by Rosemary Gibson, demonstrates this educational power extremely well. The book shares numerous cases where medical error caused significant, many times fatal, patient harm. Unlike traditional medical case reviews discussed in M&M’s or written for journal publication, the book takes a different approach to these cases and shares through interviews what patients and family members expected from caregivers after good intentioned care caused harm. The take-away from these patient and family interviews highlight five areas of need:

1.       The truth

2.       Accountability

3.       An apology when appropriate

4.       Remedy

5.       Commitment (and action) to change the system to protect others from similar harm.

Patients and family members are great teachers and educators. Lessons learned from these stories through the patient’s voice are powerful teaching tools that survive the educational decay commonly seen with traditional teaching methodologies. While these are all tragic stories, there is much to be learned when we as caregivers are willing to hear what our patients tell us and engage in truthful and transparent discussion. As Rosemary told me many years ago, the best teachers find ways to connect the brain to the heart and leave a lasting educational imprint on their students.

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